Monday, January 16, 2017

“Saimdang, Light’s Diary” (aka “Saimdang, Soulmates Across Time”) synopsis by episode, Eps.1-28 (no spoilers), SBS version

Jump to this blog post’s (1) introduction and recommendation about the two different versions of this drama; (2) links to the synopsis of the different episodes; (3) backgrounders on the historical Shin Saimdang; or (4) synopsis of Episode 1.

Update as of January 6, 2018: Free downloads of hi-res 2018 calendars, posters, and infographics on “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” and Lee Young-ae.

Update as of May 4, 2017:

1. From Yonhap News Agency article titled 'Saimdang' earns net profit, recoups 75 pct of budget from overseas:

“The show is the most viewed program on Taiwan’s GTV since its premiere. It’s also maintaining the lead and No. 2 positions on various platforms in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia," a company official said.”

2. From Soompi article titled “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” Rakes In Staggering Amount In Revenue Due To Popularity Abroad:

About 22.5 billion won (approximately $20 million) had been invested in the production of “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” and, on May 3, it was revealed that the show made back about 75 percent of that initial investment, equating to about $15 million, through export revenue alone.

A source from the production company stated, “While we cannot reveal exact numbers, we made a significant surplus in profit.”

Lee Young-ae plays the role of Seo Ji-yoon, a fictional Korean art-history lecturer who discovers the diary of the historical Shin Saimdang, a renowned poet-artist-calligraphist during the Joseon dynasty. Lee (who also plays Saimdang) then unravels the secret of a mysterious portrait.
This drama has two versions: (1) the re-edited version with 28 episodes that’s being broadcast on SBS Korea and (2) the international or original version with 30 episodes that’s being broadcast via cable TV to Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and in Hong Kong. I’m using the English-subbed videos of the SBS version to write these synopses.

I recommend that you watch this drama’s international version rather than the SBS version. (You can read below the differences between the SBS version and international or original version.) If you’re from Asia, you can watch the international version on iflix (with subs available in English and several other languages). You can read the synopsis of the international version in my “Better English” blog.

(Besides the countries mentioned above, this drama will also be broadcast in the Philippines on the GMA7 network this August. Please surf to my Facebook page “Saimdang, Soulmates Across Time on GMA7” for updates and infographics.)

Jump to synopsis of Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16; 17; 18; 19; 20; 21; 22; 23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 28; How I made these synopses spoiler-free; Charts of characters; Backgrounders on historical Shin Saimdang and other information with video documentary “The Grand Heritage Ep 57: Shin Saimdang”; Related post: synopsis of “A Jewel in the Palace” aka “Dae Jang Geum” (Lee Young-ae’s first historical drama, which has been broadcast in nearly 100 countries since 2003); Significance of butterflies in Joseon culture; Related dramas: “Painter of the Wind” and “Yi San, Wind in the Palace”; “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” review; OST videos; Kpop video interviews with Lee Young-ae about “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”; “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” as a novel (English translations); Free, interactive English grammar and vocabulary exercises based on “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” and other Korean historical dramas (external link); Lessons in photography from “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”

How I wrote these episode summaries with no spoilers

1. I assumed that you will be reading these summaries and watching the videos chronologically.

2. I narrated the main actions in each episode without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

3. At the beginning of each summary starting with Episode 2, I placed in a table a recap of the major twists and turns of the previous episode. But because you have already watched the video of the previous episode, they aren’t spoilers anymore.

(I used this same structure in my synopses of “Six Flying Dragons,” “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds,” “The King’s Doctor,” “A Jewel in the Palace,” and “The Flower in Prison.”)

Episode 1: The portrait and the green mountains

The drama begins centuries ago in an Italian castle where there’s music and dancing amid a stormy night. Despite the festivities, Lee Gyeom locks himself up in his room, furiously painting a portrait.

The present time …

Seo Ji-yoon is a businessman’s wife and the mother of a young boy. She works as an instructor in Hankuk University’s Art Department while pursuing her PhD. She’s given a big career opportunity by Professor Min Jung Hak in presenting her evaluation of “Keumkangsando”, a centuries-old painting of the famous Mount Geumgang by An Gyeon (Ahn Kyun), a famous Joseon artist. But the presentation is disrupted by Han Sang-hyun, a young instructor who has previously been in conflict with Professor Min.

In an art conference in Bologna, Italy, Professor Min tells Ji-yoon to change her major because he will not allow her to get her PhD. She gets locked out of her hotel room, and her problems worsen when she hears from her friend Hye-jung that Prof. Min told the University that she must be fired from her job.

In despair, she wanders around Bologna. In an alley, she nearly gets run over by a bicyclist, and she stumbles over a book stand. The owner apologizes to her by giving her a stack of books.

Later, she discovers among the books an ancient diary that mentions the Mount Geumgang painting (“Keumkangsando”).

Episode 2: Saimdang and Lee Gyeom; Seo Ji-yoon and Saimdang

Episode 1 recap:

Prof. Kim and the owner of the Sun Gallery connive to present the “Mount Geumgang” painting (“Keumkangsando”) as authentic, thus earning for both of them money, prestige, and power.

Ji-yoon’s investigation leads her to the castle known as “Siesta Di Luna” in Tuscany, Italy where the real estate agent shows her the enormous halls filled with all kinds of art works. She and Lee Gyeom’s spirit cross each other, and as if she’s possessed, she rushes to a room where she stares at a painting. The glass cover then breaks into a thousand pieces, and Ji-yoon is stunned to find behind the painting a full-length portrait of a Joseon-era lady.

The University’s Disciplinary Committee terminates Ji-yoon’s employment as lecturer.

Because of her husband’s legal problems, Ji-yoon, her mother, and her boy are forced to relocate to a tough neighborhood. There, she meets Han Sang-hyun, the instructor who disrupted her presentation.

As Ji-yoon and her friend Hye-jung (who works at the Conservation Science Department of the National Museum) examine the diary, they begin thinking that the Mount Geumgang painting (“Keumkangsando”) authenticated by Prof. Min is fake.

In Joseon …

The young Saimdang wants to see An Gyeon’s famous painting “Keumkangsando”, and so she climbs over the wall of a house belonging to a member of the Royal family. She meets the young Lee Gyeom who’s in trouble again with his great aunt. When Lee Gyeom doesn’t stop teasing her about her skirt, she runs away, leaving behind her sketchbook. But Lee Gyeom comes up with a plan to be able to see her again.

At present …

After Ji-yoon shows Hye Jung the portrait she got from Siesta Di Luna, they hurry off to a museum. As they’re looking at paintings by Saimdang and Lee Gyeom, Ji-yoon gets a call from her husband. She meets her husband, and later on, they meet an accident. Her husband rushes her to a hospital, but she is unconscious and beginning to have visions.

Back to Joseon …

On their way to Hanyang, Saimdang and her children visit her childhood home in Gangneung for one last time. Unknown to Saimdang, Lee Gyeom has been watching out for her.

The adult Lee Gyeom leads a frivolous life, spending his time painting on the bodies of gisaengs. He visits his great aunt who wants him to get married and to stop pining for Saimdang. He wanders around his childhood home and sees the bracelet that Saimdang gave him decades ago.


(1) Ji-yoon’s husband leaves money for her inside a locker. If you look closely, the money is in the denomination that features Shin Saimdang.

(2) In this episode, a butterfly appears when Seo Jin-yoon and her family are moving to their new home.

Is there something significant about butterflies in Joseon culture? Remember the butterfly in “The Moon That Embraces The Sun” (Episodes 1 and 7)? Remember the butterfly key chain of Lady Jang in “Dong Yi”? If I remember correctly, the ornate hair pin that Bang-won gave Boon-yi in Episode 46 of “Six Flying Dragons” was in the shape of a butterfly.

(3) The historical Shin Saimdang had a son who became one of Joseon’s highly-respected Confucian scholar; he was known by his pen name “Yulgok.” The street that Seo Jin-yoon and her family were traveling on as they moved to a new apartment is named “Yulgok.”

Episode 3: The poem, the goddess, and the paper

Episode 2 recap:

Ji-yoon begins having visions of herself in Joseon times as Saimdang who’s now the mother of several children. In a daze, she walks past Lee Gyeom whom she doesn’t recognize. She wanders around her childhood home until she enters a room where she sees An Gyeon’s famous painting “Mount Geumgang”.

After leaving the hospital, Ji-yoon asks Han Sang-hyun for help in reading and translating the diary’s text.

In Joseon …

Lee Gyeom uses the “Keumkangsando” in order to meet Saimdang again. On his way to Saimdang’s house, he meets Seok Soon, a scruffy-looking girl who’s hiding behind a wall and trying to listen in to Saimdang’s father teaching Saimdang and her sisters. He helps Seok Soon who begins to be infatuated with him.

Lee Gyeom teaches Saimdang how to mix colors. He also gives back her sketchbook, and in it, he places his portrait of Saimdang, together with a poem. They begin spending time together.

Lee Gyeom remembers the times he and Saimdang spent together and how they fell in love.

Saimdang and Lee Gyeom climb up a mountain and admire the grand view. When Saimdang says that she wants to visit beautiful places like Mount Geumgang (Keumkangsan), Lee Gyeom tells her that they should visit those places together as husband and wife.

King Jungjong, along with his bodyguard, breaks away from the Royal procession in order to visit his cousin Lee Gyeom. In disguise, he meets Saimdang while she’s painting; he also meets a scholar who has become infatuated with Saimdang.

King Jungjong finds out from Lee Gyeom who Saimdang’s father is. He writes a poem, signing it with his name, and sends it to Saimdang’s father.

Saimdang carves out a seal as a gift for Lee Gyeom. When she goes to her father to borrow an engraving tool, she happens to read the King’s poem.

At present ...

Debt collectors looking for Ji-yoon’s husband force their way into her apartment. But Han Sang-hyun comes to her rescue.

Later, Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun discover a clue that can prove that the “Mount Geumgang” painting that Professor Min authenticated is fake.

Back to Joseon …

While painting at a temple up in the mountain, Saimdang sees a painting of a goddess. She begins following the head monk, trying to convince him to show her the painting. She sees in the temple compound a paper mill that produces the famous Goryeo paper. She also sees some people who are starving and who have been beaten up.

While Saimdang is at the temple, a rowdy group of government officials, their bodyguards, and gisaengs arrives at the compound. Part of the group is Min Chi-hyung, a county mayor and a big businessman. He tries to convince the head monk to supply him with the Goryeo paper that everyone wants.

While painting near the temple compound, Saimdang meets a young, starving girl. She gives the girl her food and the painting on which she has written part of the poem that the King gave to her father.

Despite her father’s order for her not to return to the temple, Saimdang decides to go back and bring food to the starving people. She writes a letter asking Lee Gyeom to come with her.

The maid goes to deliver Saimdang’s letter to Lee Gyeom, but on her way, she suddenly feels the need to go to the outhouse. She asks Seok Soon to deliver the letter to Lee Gyeom.

Episode 4: A wedding and a funeral

Episode 3 recap:

On the mountain, Saimdang tells Lee Gyeom: “I wish I were the wind. I can move through those beautiful places I want to visit and go wherever I want. From north to south and from east to west, wherever I want.”

Lee Gyeom replies, “You can sketch Seorakan covered in snow. And you can sketch the camellias in Nando. You can also sketch the falling stars in the forest.”

Saimdang says. “I’ll go to Mount Geumgang (Keumkangsan) no matter what. I want to climb the mountain and see the beauty for myself before I die.”

Later, Lee Gyeom visits Saimdang’s parents with a marriage proposal for Saimdang. They tell him to wait for their answer.

Saimdang sets aside her copy of the “Mount Geumgang” painting. She tells the man (whom she doesn’t know is really King Jungjong) that her painting is fake: “I was just copying Mount Geumgang that I haven’t seen. There’s no soul in my painting.

“Even with the same tree leaf, it’s light green in the spring, dark green in summer, and the autumn colors are all different. They have different colors depending on the sunlight and the wind. I want to see all of that with my own eyes and draw it with my own feelings. But what can I do? A woman can’t climb Mount Geumgang all by herself. Why are there so many things a woman can’t do?”

King Jungjong remembers Saimdang’s father as one of four men who stood against the treasonous plans of Sir Jo Gwang-jo and his group. In his poem, he says, “It’s tragic what my people are going through. Even the heavens have forgotten about them. It breaks my heart about those who were expelled in the Gi-myo year. There are no people in the kingdom, and no one knows how I feel. Who shall I speak about my agony?”

When Saimdang’s father realizes that the King wrote the poem, he rushes out of the house and runs after the King.

Saimdang gives Lee Gyeom the “Biikjo” seal featuring a mythological bird with one eye and one wing.Together, Saimdang and Lee Gyeom write their poems on the “Mount Geumgang” painting and stamp it with the seal.

Ji-yoon discovers the seal’s mark on the portrait she got from Tuscany, Italy. She and Han Sang-hyun conclude that the real “Mount Geumgang” painting must have been stamped with Saimdang’s seal.

The head monk refuses make a deal with Min Chi-hyung, saying that the temple’s Goryeo paper is dedicated to Buddha.

Seok Soon goes to deliver Saimdang’s letter to Lee Gyeom. She sees and hears Lee Gyeom reciting a poem that she herself knows by heart. Lee Gyeom goes to her, thinking that she’s Saimdang.

Lee Gyeom is surprised that Seok Soon, a lowborn child of a tavern owner, knows how to write and the poem that he was reciting. He gives her a brush and encourages her to continue studying.

Lovestruck with Lee Gyeom, Seok Soon hides Saimdang’s letter.

Overwhelmed by her emotions, Seok Soon doesn’t give Saimdang’s letter to Lee Gyeom. Later, she goes to where Saimdang is waiting and offers to help her. Together, they go to Unpyeong Temple.

At the temple, the drunken revelry by the government officials, the nobles, and the gisaengs continues even as dozens of starving people are waiting be fed by the monks. When the child befriended earlier by Saimdang steals some fruits from the nobles, the drunken son of Lord Young-myung kills the child and the head monk who tried to intervene.

The monks and the people begin stoning the nobles. Min Chi-hyung arrives and orders his private soldiers to kill all the monks and the people. Chaos erupts in the temple. Chased by the soldiers, Saimdang and Seok Soon try to escape, but they fall into a ravine.

Meanwhile, news spreads about the riot, and Lee Gyeom finds out that Saimdang is at the temple. He rides out and finds Seok Soon carrying Saimdang on her back. Lee Gyeom takes Saimdang with him and leaves Seok Soon all by herself.

Seok Soon blames Saimdang for all her misfortunes and decides to seek revenge.

Meanwhile, the King overhears from some itinerant merchants about the massacre at the temple. One of the merchants says that the massacre was caused by a poem and begins reciting the poem. The King recognizes the poem and starts to panic. He fears that the ministers will misinterpret the poem and rebel against him, just like what they did with the former King.

The King orders his bodyguard to kill everyone who received the poem, including Saimdang’s father. When the bodyguard asks him about Saimdang and Lee Gyeom, the King tells him, “If Saimdang and Lee Gyeom’s marriage isn’t called off, kill them both!”

Episode 5: Lovers and enemies in Hanyang

Episode 4 recap:

Seok Soon befriends Saimdang as they walk towards the temple. She admires Saimdang’s ribbon and says that it must have been given by Saimdang’s lover.

Min Chi-hyung finds out the secret to making the temple’s famous Goryeo paper.

At the temple, the drunken son of Lord Young-myung takes the painting from the child and thinks that the poem refers to the traitor Sir Jo Gwang-jo and his followers. (From a hiding place, Saimdang recognizes her painting.) As the soldiers start killing the monks and the people, Saimdang and Seok Soon run for their lives.

Lee Gyeom brings the unconscious Saimdang to her house. He then rides out again to look for a doctor, but Seok Soon blocks his way. She asks Lee Gyeom, “Can’t you see that I’m hurt and in pain, too?” Lee Gyeom gives her money to buy medicine for her wounds and rides away. Dejected, Seok Soon walks away, leaving the money on the ground.

In despair, Seok Soon blames Saimdang for all her misfortunes and wants revenge. She takes Saimdang’s ribbon and sketchbook containing her drawings of the drunken revelry at the temple to the river where Min Chi-hyung finds them. He orders his private soldiers to find and kill the ribbon’s owner. The soldiers start rampaging in village after village.

Saimdang’s parents learn that soldiers are looking for her. They order their servants to gather all the paintings and drawings from their house and burn them. Saimdang regains consciousness and tearfully protects the “Mount Geumgang” painting.

Saimdang’s father also learns that the scholars who stood up to Sir Jo Gwang-jo are being killed one by one and that he will be next.

The King’s bodyguard tells Saimdang’s parents that for Saimdang and Lee Gyeom to live, their wedding must be called off. Saimdang overhears the conversation and becomes concerned with Lee Gyeom’s safety. She agrees to marry someone else to protect Lee Gyeom.

Saimdang’s parents hastily arrange a marriage between her and Lee Won-su, the scholar who has been staying at their compound. As the marriage ceremonies begin, Lee Gyeom arrives, but he is stopped and locked up by men sent by his great aunt.

When Min Chi-hyung finds out that Saimdang is the ribbon’s owner, he and the soldiers rush to her house. But a masked warrior (actually the King’s bodyguard) easily beats them off. Min Chi-young and the soldiers retreat hastily.

The King’s bodyguard later kills Saimdang’s father, and just a day after the wedding, Saimdang begins to mourn for her father. A despondent Lee Gyeom arrives and begs her to run away with him. But she refuses.

In present time …

Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun think that the genuine “Mount Geumgang” painting is hidden somewhere in Saimdang’s ancestral house “Ojukheon” in Gangneum. They rush there, but they’re disappointed to learn that all the original structures have been demolished, except for the “Dragon Dream Room” (the room of Saimdang’s son, Yulgok).

Ji-yoon’s mother-in-law sees her and Han Sang-hyun arrive together on a motorcycle. She later scolds Ji-yoon and orders her to stop doing whatever she’s doing with Han Sang-hyun.

Ji-yoon reads Han Sang-hyun’s latest translation of Saimdang’s diary. In it, the adult Saimdang says, “Remembering my father is still a deep distress and a punishment for me. When my heart is like this, I wonder how lonely my mother would be when all her children have moved away.”

In Joseon time …

Saimdang prepares to leave for Hanyang with her children, and she visits her father’s burial mound for the last time.

Year 1540 in Joseon …

As Saimdang and her children leave for Hanyang (Joseon’s capital), Lee Gyeom creates a scandal during his wedding. Later, he goes to Hanyang to see the King.

Min Chi-hyung (the man who massacred the monks and people at the temple) has become a high government minister and an extremely rich paper merchant. His wife is Hwieumdang, formerly known as Seok Soon (the lowborn girl who betrayed Saimdang); she’s now an accomplished artist whose paintings are coveted by the wives of government ministers.

Hwieumdang later learns from Min Chi-hyung that Lee Gyeom is in Hanyang and will be among the guests in their house.

Meanwhile, Saimdang and her children find themselves homeless in Hanyang. To make matters worse, Saimdang’s youngest child becomes sick with measles.

Episode 6: Rekindling the flame

Episode 5 recap:

Saimdang returns the “Mount Geumgang” painting and other items to Lee Gyeom, but he refuses to accept them.

Lee Gyeom gets drunk the night before his wedding, remembering his and Saimdang’s final words to each other. At the marriage ceremonies, he creates a scandal by walking out. He then goes to Hanyang to ask the King to annul his marriage. The King agrees on the condition that he must serve as a government official from then on.

Lee Gyeom impresses everyone with his musical talent, but he soon offends the government ministers by his frank and irreverent opinions.

Hwieumdang (known before as Seok Soon) remembers her youthful love for Lee Gyeom. But during the feast at their house, she’s disappointed that Lee Gyeom doesn’t recognize her. Alone in her room later on, she looks at the scar on her hand, and her face becomes grim.

Saimdang and her children become homeless in Hanyang because their house has been sold by her husband who has been scammed. Using the expense money that her mother gave her, she buys a broken-down house in a poor neighborhood.

When Saimdang’s son becomes sick with measles, she’s forced to sell the precious Ming ink stone that Lee Gyeom gave her during their youthful romance.

Through a chance meeting with the peddler who bought the ink stone, Lee Gyeom looks for Saimdang’s house. Finally, after 20 long years, they meet each other again.

Lee Gyeom confronts Saimdang about how pathetic her husband is, leaving her and her children to fend for themselves, and how her life could have been so different if she had married him. But Saimdang defends the choices she has made for her life.

Later, Saimdang encourages her children to make the best of their situation. As they clean up the house and plant a garden, a tipsy Lee Gyeom watches them from afar. He walks away dejected, and on his way home, he sees a dog and its puppies.

At present …

Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun continue looking for the possible location of the real “Mount Guemgang” (Keumkangsan) painting.

In Joseon …

Lee Gyeom becomes popular in Hanyang, with women swooning over him. When the ministers begin complaining about him, the King asks everyone to visit Lee Gyeom at home.

Saimdang’s husband, Lee Won-su, comes home starving. He’s welcomed back home, but Saimdang firmly tells him that he must study hard and pass the civil service exams next year.

Later, Saimdang and her maid walk around the market to find out what kind of business she can put up. Just then, the King passes by on his way to see Lee Gyeom.

Returning home, Saimdang tries to be a good neighbor with the deposed Queen.

Suspicious of Lee Gyeom’s motives, Min Chi-yung visits him at Biikdang.

Saimdang’s son, Hyun-ryong, walks out of the house after an argument, and Woo (the youngest) follows him. Saimdang, her husband, her maid, and other children search frantically all over Hanyang for them.

Episode 7: The past, the present, and the future

Episode 6 recap:

Saimdang tells Lee Gyeom that he’s the one who’s truly pathetic, having wasted the last 20 years of his life. She says with fire in her eyes, “At least, I’m taking charge of my life. Do you know what’s the hardest thing for me? It seems like the brilliant man I loved so dearly 20 years ago is no longer here. Did the amazing times we had together even exist? That makes me more sad and miserable. Did you call my husband pathetic? To my eyes, you look just that right now!”

Later, after taking care of her children, Saimdang breaks down, remembering how she had sacrificed herself for Lee Gyeom’s sake.

Rebuked by Saimdang’s words, Lee Gyeom tries to paint again for the next several days. But he fails over and over again. Meanwhile, Saimdang and her children try to make the best of their situation. They clean up the house and plant a garden. Later on, a tipsy Lee Gyeom comes by and sees how happy Saimdang is with her children.

Dejected, Lee Gyeom walks away. On his way home, he sees a dog playing with its puppies. He’s reminded of Saimdang playing with her youngest son. The scene inspires him, and he starts painting again.

He sends his painting to Saimdang, who replies to him with a poem.

At present …

Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun begin looking for the present-day location of Saimdang’s home in Hanyang (now Seoul). But unknown to them, Prof. Min’s assistants overhear their conversation.

In Joseon …

The King orders Lee Gyeom to establish an art center for Joseon where people, regardless of class, can hone their talents in arts and music for free. Lee Gyeom calls the center “Biikdang” after the seal that Saimdang gave him decades ago.

Min Chi-hyung, a tyrant feared by his children, becomes suspicious of Lee Gyeom’s motives. He orders his servant to watch Lee Gyeom and Biikdang.

As all sorts of people come to Biikdang, Hwieumdang passes by and watches Lee Gyeom from afar.

As the King passes by the market, Saimdang sees him and remembers how his father was killed because of the King’s poem.

The King asks Lee Gyeom to secretly investigate the corrupt activities of the ministers, including Min Chi-hyung.

When Saimdang tells her second son Hyun-ryong that he can’t attend Jungbu School, he walks out of the house. Together with Woo (Saimdang’s youngest son), they wander around until they reach Biikdang. But the man at the gate refuses to let them in.

Min Chi-hyung visits Lee Gyeom at Biikdang, bringing with him a peacock as a gift. In return, Lee Gyeom gives him a painting of flowers.

Afterwards, as Min Chi-hyung is leaving, he sees Woo (Saimdang’s youngest son) near his litter (“gama”). As he picks up Woo, Saimdang arrives and sees him. She recognizes Min Chi-hyung as the man who led the massacre of the monks and people at the temple.

As a frightened Saimdang takes her son Woo and starts to walk away, Min Chi-hyung orders her to stop.

After meeting Min Chi-hyung, Saimdang begins to have nightmares again of the temple massacre. She decides to write a letter for Lee Gyeom.

Lee Gyeom starts investigating Min Chi-hyung by visiting his paper store.

Hwieumdang remembers how she met Min Chi-hyung.

At present …

Prof. Min finds out that Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun are meeting Hye-jung, who’s working at the National Museum.

Hye-jung finds a poem hidden between the pages of Saimdang’s diary.

Back to Joseon …

Hyun-ryong (Saimdang’s second son) sits near a class in Jungbu School. Later he meets the Head Teacher and Hwieumdang. At that same time, Woo (Saimdang’s youngest child) wanders off to Biikdang where Lee Gyeom meets him.

After an incident at the market, Saimdang takes her family to a place in the mountain.

Lee Gyeom visits Jungbu School; later, the school’s Head Teacher goes to see Saimdang.

Episode 8: The contest

Episode 7 recap:

Using her left hand to write so that she can’t be identified, Saimdang warns Lee Gyeom about Min Chi-hyung. Not knowing who sent the letter, Lee Gyeom thinks that one of Min Chi-hyung’s allies sent the letter to scare him off.

Min Chi-hyung sees a striking resemblance between the painting of flowers that Lee Gyeom gave and the ribbon of the girl who witnessed the temple massacre.

Hwieumdang remembers how she, as Seok Soon, became Min Chi-hyung’s servant. She remembers presenting herself to bear Min Chi-hyung’s children. When he scoffed at her saying she’s just a servant, she replied with a poem: “People loved the red peony, and their gardens were filled with them. Who knew that a beautiful flower bloomed even from desolate grounds?”

At present …

After meeting Hye-jung, Ji-yoon tells Han Sang-hyun not to stick close to her to prevent gossip in their neighborhood. Prof. Min’s assistants see them going into the same apartment complex and think that they’re having an affair.

Hye-jung finds a poem hidden between the pages of Saimdang’s diary. The poem, which was not written in ancient Korean, says: “Our two souls, therefore, which are one, Though I must go, endure not yet a breach, but an expansion like gold to airy thinness beat.” Ji-yoon says that the poem was written by John Donne, a 16th century English poet.

Prof. Min arrives and warns Ji-yoon, Hye-jung, and Han Sang-hyun that he’s watching out for them. Han Sang-hyun later offers a room at the club where they can continue studying Saimdang’s diary.

Back to Joseon …

Jungbu School’s Head Teacher becomes impressed with Hyun-ryong’s intelligence; he’s also surprised to know who Hyun-ryong’s grandfather was.

Hwieumdang sees Hyung-ryong in the school and scolds him for loitering there. Later, she warns the Head Teacher to keep the school’s tradition in accepting new students.

At Biikdang, Lee Gyeom finds Woo adorable, not knowing that he is Saimdang’s son.

Saimdang’s children are caught stealing dried persimmons at the market. Finding out about it, Saimdang whips them repeatedly. Sun, the eldest child, shouts that they did it because they were hungry. He and the other children begin blaming their father.

Saimdang takes her family to a barren place in the mountain. She tells her children that’s the place their father bought in a scam. She inspires her children to look beyond the barren conditions of the place and imagine how better it can be if they work together. Later, they spend a happy time playing at the river.

Going back home, they meet Jungbu School’s Head Teacher. He tells Saimdang that he knew her father and how proud he was of her. He then tells Saimdang and her husband that the school has a place open for Hyun-ryong.

But when Hyun-ryong’s brother and sister tell him that they barely have enough to eat for tomorrow, he decides not to attend Jungbu School.

That evening, while Saimdang tends to her children’s wounds from the whipping, she finds Hyun-ryong’s notebook. In it, he has written a poem: “Autumn deepens at the gazebo in the woods, but the poet finds no solace in its beauty. River faraway is the color of the sky it touches; red leaves under frost are burning red.”

Saimdang’s husband, Lee Won-su, leaves their home and goes to a temple.

Saimdang takes her son Hyun-ryong to Jungbu School. There, Saimdang, Hwieumdang (Seok Soon), and Lee Gyeom meet each other again.

Lee Gyeom goes up to the mountain and asks someone to help him investigate Min Chi-hyung’s illegal activities. Meanwhile, Min Chi-hyung learns more about Lee Gyeom’s past.

Hyun-ryong finds a poem in one of his grandfather’s books and gives it to Saimdang.

The mothers of the Jungbu School students complain to the Head Teacher that Hyun-ryong is not qualified to enter the school. Lee Gyeom arrives and suggests to the mothers that a contest be held between Hyun-ryong and the other student applying for the vacant slot.

The other student’s father is a very rich nobleman who has asked the Prime Minister and Min Chi-hyung to get his son (Jang Tae-ryong) admitted into the school.

At present …

Ji-yoon does what her husband asked her to do, but her mother-in-law accidentally finds out about it.

Back to Joseon …

Hwieumdang gets private tutors and puts Jang Tae-ryong through a crash course for the contest.

Episode 9: “Complacent clouds” (The painting and poetry contest)

Episode 8 recap:

Lee Won-su goes to a mountain temple to prepare for the civil service exams.

At the school, Hwieumdang recognizes Saimdang as Lee Gyeom arrives. She turns to avoid Saimdang, and Saimdang walks past Lee Gyeom without acknowledging him. Later, Hwieumdang goes to see where Saimdang lives.

Hwieumdang then asks the mothers to protest Hyun-ryong’s admission into the school. But on Lee Gyeom’s suggestion, the mothers agree to a contests between Hyun-ryong and the other student.

Min Chi-hyung learns that Lee Gyeom and Saimdang nearly got married years ago and that Lee Gyeom showed up in Hanyang just when Saimdang and her family have relocated there.

Lee Gyeom asks his friend (the leader of a bandit group) to find out what he can about Min Chi-hyung’s illegal activities.

Lee Gyeom tells the Head Teacher that he will anonymously sponsor Hyun-ryong and other intelligent but poor students.

At present …

Ji-yoon’s husband tells her to file for divorce. Her mother-in-law finds out about it and becomes angry at Ji-yoon’s ingratitude.

Back to Joseon …

Hyun-ryong finds his grandfather’s copy of the King’s poem and gives it to Saimdang. Saimdang orders him never to talk about the poem. Remembering that the poem started all the sad turns in her life, she tries to burn the letter but could not.

Jang Tae-ryong, the other student applying for the vacant slot, turns out to be good at eating and nothing else. Despite a crash course with tutors arranged by a frustrated Hwieumdang, he still cannot understand or memorize what he’s being taught. But Hwieumdang later on gets a copy of the contest question and prepares Jang Tae-ryong for it.

Lee Gyeom finds out from a nervous Jang Tae-ryong that the contest question has been leaked. He arranges another contest where both Hyun-ryong and Jang Tae-ryong fail. (The two have become instant friends who do not want to deprive each other the opportunity to enter the school.) On Lee Gyeom’s suggestion, both of them are admitted.

Hwieumdang tells the other mothers that Saimdang could have influenced Lee Gyeom. The mothers go to Saimdang’s house and demand that she formally greet them. They also tell her that Hyun-ryong was admitted to the school only because Lee Gyeom intervened.

An angry Saimdang goes to the school to see the Head Teacher and Lee Gyeom.

Offended by what the mothers told her, Saimdang goes to Jungbu School and tells Lee Gyeom not to meddle with her life.

While tending to a fire in her kitchen and remembering Lee Gyeom’s words, Saimdang realizes that she can make and sell paper as her family’s source of income. To help her, she contacts an ornery, always drunk, former artisan at the Office of Paper Production. But because of the broken down sheds and with only kitchen knives for tools, the artisan turns her down.

Lee Gyeom and Hwieumdang find out separately that Saimdang is putting up a small business of making and selling paper. At first, Hwieumdang thinks that Saimdang will use the paper for her paintings, but then she finds out the truth.

Through his friend (the bandit group’s leader), Lee Gyeom finds out more about Hwieumdang.

In Jungbu School, Lee Gyeom teaches his students not just to memorize things but to express what they have in their hearts.

The deposed Queen gratefully sends dried persimmons for Saimdang and her children. Later, Saimdang and her children visit the Queen.

Hwieumdang tells herself that she is the best painter in Joseon and vows that Saimdang must never be able to compete with her again. She also vows that Saimdang will spend the rest of her life as a “worthless woman doing manual labor.” She then visits Lee Gyeom in Jungbu School and proposes that Biikdang host a painting and poetry contest among the students and their mothers.

Episode 10: Unpyeongsa (Unpyeong Temple)

Episode 9 recap:

Lee Gyeom justifies himself to Saimdang, saying he didn’t know that Hyun-ryong was her son and that she should not let their sad past get in the way of Hyun-ryong’s education. Nevertheless, Saimdang tells him that to prevent misunderstandings, he should stay out of her family’s life. (Later, Lee Gyeom thinks that Saimdang might possibly still have feelings for him.)

Saimdang finds plenty of mulberry trees in the land that her husband was scammed into buying. To help her, she contacts an ornery, always drunk former artisan at the Office of Paper Production. But because of the broken down sheds and with only kitchen knives for tools, the artisan turns her down. He agrees only when Saimdang promises a 50-50 split in whatever they will be able to sell later on.

Hwieumdang thinks at first that Saimdang will use the paper for her paintings. When she finds out Saimdang’s real purpose, she orders all the paper merchants in Hanyang not to buy from or sell paper for Saimdang.

Lee Gyeom finds out that Hwieumdang has a mysterious past, with no relatives to speak of, and that Min Chi-hyung has another wife.

When Hwieumndang catches a female servant trying to flirt with Min Chi-hyung, she orders the servant to be whipped and sent away.

In Jungbu School, Lee Gyeom teaches his students not just to memorize things but to express what they have in their hearts. He’s moved when Hyun-ryong begins describing Saimdang as a great person: “My mother taught me that I have to make the most out of even difficult situations. She made the most out of the difficult things; my mother is a strong but soft-hearted person.”

The deposed Queen gratefully sends dried persimmons for Saimdang and her children. Later, Saimdang and her children visit the Queen. When Mae-chang (Saimdang’s daughter) says that she wants to visit again, the Queen tells Saimdang that it will do her no good being seen with a deposed queen. Saimdang touches the Queen’s heart by saying that being kind to neighbors is a virtue.

Looking at the paper that she has made, Saimdang begins tracing lines and shapes on it. (Like Lee Gyeom, she has been traumatized by what happened 20 years ago and has not painted anything since then.)

Hwieumdang tells herself that she is the best painter in Joseon and vows that Saimdang must never be able to compete with her again.

On the day of the contest, the mothers are all dressed up, hoping to impress Lee Gyeom. But Saimdang comes in her work clothes that offends the mothers. When Hwieumdang describes her silk dress as being in “Yeonji” color, Saimdang wonders who she is.

Not wanting Saimdang to continue being embarrassed by what she’s wearing, Lee Gyeom orders his nephew to buy aprons from the market. When the mothers complain that the aprons are like rags, he tells them that with the aprons, they don’t have to worry about spilling paint on their silk clothes.

Hwieumdang proposes that the contest theme be “Unpyeong” (“complacent clouds”). Saimdang and Lee Gyeom become agitated, remembering Unpyeong Temple from 20 years ago. As Saimdang agonizes, Hwieumdang watches her and thinks, “Are you suffering? What a pathetic sight. You’ll never be able to paint again. Because of your painting, nearly 100 people died. This is how you pay for your sin.”

When Saimdang overhears that Hwieumdang is the wife of Min Chi-hyung (the man who ordered the temple massacre), she panics and runs out of the contest hall. Hyun-ryongs follows her and, having been bullied in school, he cries that Saimdang cannot leave just like that. When Saimdang says that she simply cannot paint, Hyun-ryong storms off, saying that he’ll finish everything himself.

In his poem, Hyun-ryong writes, “In the chaotic world, a poet wanders around like complacent clouds. I’d like to stir up the clouds and let the sweet rains fall on the dry land.”

Later, Lee Gyeom sees the scar on Hwieumdang’s hand and remembers the lowborn girl Seok Soon from 20 years ago. At that same time, Saimdang is on the mountain; remembering the “Yeonji” color, she realizes that Hwieumdang and Seok Soon are one and the same person.

Saimdang and Lee Gyeom realize that Hwieumdang is none other than the lowborn girl Seok Soon whom they met 20 years ago.

As Saimdang goes home that night, she finds out that Hyun-ryong is missing.

Lee Gyeom starts investigating what happened at Unpyeong Temple that has scarred Saimdang’s life.

The King becomes anxious when the government ministers complain that newly-appointed government officials are flocking to Biikdang and meeting with Lee Gyeom.

The Prime Minister’s insane son kills a woman, and Min Chi-hyung has to clean up the mess.

Saimdang gets an order for 5,000 sheets of colored paper that she must deliver within five days. If she can’t deliver them, she must pay a penalty of 10 times the down payment. Unknown to Saimdang, her supply of paper at the workplace has been stolen by her paper artisan. Worse, the down payment isn’t enough to hire workers to help her produce the 5,000 sheets of colored paper.

Episode 11: Secrets revealed

Episode 10 recap:

Lee Gyeom warns Hwieumdang: “I don’t know your reason behind it, but if you’re trying to hurt someone, I hope that you don’t only look after your scar while putting daggers in someone else’s heart.”

But Hwieumdang doesn’t back down and retorts: “If I want to hurt someone, don’t you think that person deserves it? An eye for an eye is only human nature.”

The Prime Minister’s insane son kills a woman, and Min Chi-hyung has to clean up the mess.

Hyun-ryong refuses to go home with Saimdang and tells her that he is no longer her son. Saimdang is assured by Lee Gyeom that he will bring Hyun-ryong home later on. As Saimdang begins to leave, Lee Gyeom tells her that Hyun-ryong is as stubborn as she was during her younger years.

Lee Gyeom tells Hyun-ryong that he regrets not having known his own mother. Hyun-ryong replies: “I’m frustrated. I’m studying for my mother and my family. I’m going to study very, very hard. I’m going to win first place in the civil service exam and become a government employee. I will buy a huge house where all my family members will have their own rooms. And I will also buy silk dresses so that my mother won’t have wear shabby clothes. How come my mother doesn’t understand how I feel?’

Lee Gyeom advises Hyun-ryong to tell his mother everything that’s in his heart.

Lee Gyeom brings Hyun-ryong home, and when he mentions that Hyun-ryong is a very intelligent boy, Saimdang says: “That’s why I’m careful with him. I don’t want him to become arrogant.” When Lee Gyeom repeats his offer to sponsor Hyun-ryong’s studies, Saimdang rejects the offer and walks away.

Saimdang freezes when Lee Gyeom mentions Unpyeong Temple. He asks: “Just what happened there? Why did you storm out trembling at the mention of the temple? Does the reason you stopped painting for 20 years have to do with the temple? The Saimdang I knew would have never given up painting. What happened to the daring girl who climbed over walls just to see the ‘Mount Geumgang’ painting?”

Later, Lee Gyeom goes to where Unpyeong Temple used to be. He meets an old man who tells him about the massacre and that Min Chi-hyung could have been involved in it.

The store manager at Jangwon Paper Store refuses to buy Saimdang’s paper because of their low quality. When Hwieumdang finds out that Saimdang is selling her paper, she sets up a plan to sink Saimdang deeply into debt. She orders the store manager to buy from Saimdang 5,000 sheets of colored paper that must be delivered within five days. If Saimdang is not able to deliver the paper, she must pay a penalty of ten times the down payment.

The paper artisan has stolen the paper that Saimdang has at the workplace. With only her servant to help her, Saimdang tries to produce the paper within the deadline. That night, Lee Gyeom and his nephew sneak into the workplace and try to produce as much pulp as they can.

When a boy steals their food, Saimdang, her servant, and her sons stumble upon a group of starving and sick drifters. Saimdang remembers the people she saw at Unpyeong Temple 20 years ago. Moved by their plight, she tells the drifters that if they help her make the paper, she will split the profits with them.

The store manager turns against Hwieumdang and reveals to Lee Gyeom the bribes that Min Chi-hyung has given to government officials. But later on, the store manager is killed by Min Chi-hyung.

Saimdang is shocked when the new store manager refuses to buy the 5,000 sheets of paper. She decides to sell the paper herself on the street. But Hwieumdang orders her private soldiers to break up the sale. As a soldier pushes Saimdang aside, she falls into Lee Gyeom’s arms.

A fight breaks out when Lee Gyeom confronts the private soldiers who stopped Saimdang from selling her paper on the street.

After meeting with the Ming ambassador, Min Chi-hyung confronts Hwieumdang about the way she has been running the paper store.

While at the mountain praying, Saiumdang is approached first by the leader of the drifters and later on, by an old man (the grandfather of the boy who stole Saimdang and her children’s food days ago).

Lee Gyeom asks his nephew to find out what happened to the paper store manager who told them about Min Chi-hyung’s illegal activities.

Hwieumdang remembers all the things she had to do to gain Min Chi-hyung’s favor; that night, she decides to go to Biikdang.

The ministers complain to the King that Lee Gyeom is engaging in politics. They demand that the King dismiss Lee Gyeom, his staff at Biikdang, and his friend (the Head Teacher of Jungbu School).

Policemen arrive at Saimdang’s paper mill and arrest all of the drifters.

Episode 12: Parallel paths

Episode 11 recap:

The soldiers stop attacking Lee Gyeom when they recognize from his fan that he is a member of the Royal Family. As Saimdang is hurriedly led away by her husband, policemen start arriving. The soldiers back down, and the drifters run off with their cartload of paper.

Lee Gyeom takes the colored paper scattered on the street and asks the artists at Biikdang to use them for their painting and poetry. Inspired by the paper’s unique colors, the artists create dozens upon dozens of art works.

Min Chi-hyung terrifies Hwieumdang by showing her the cut-off finger of the paper store manager who betrayed them to Lee Gyeom.

Saimdang pleads for mercy with the drifters and their leader for having failed to sell the paper they worked on. Just then, the bald-headed man who’s always hanging around Biikdang comes with several men, and they buy all of Saimdang’s paper.

Later at the mountain, Saimdang tells the leader of the drifters that she is praying for the men and women who were massacred at Unpyeong Temple. She says that she was shocked by the two strikingly different worlds at the temple between the government officials who were partying and the drifters who were starving. She wanted to do something, but because of her painting and poetry, nearly a hundred people died.

When the leader asks if she has been praying for forgiveness for the last 20 years, Saimdang replies: “I will be paying for what I did forever. When I met all of you, that was when I knew. The heavens had sent me precious people so that I could repay that debt.”

Unknown to them, an old man is listening to their conversation. That old man later confesses to Saimdang that he’s the one who sold to Min Chi-hyung the secret to making the famous Goryeo paper. He also counsels Saimdang not to blame herself because the massacre was planned by Min Chi-hyung to eliminate everyone who knew how to make Goryeo paper.

Saimdang is stunned by the old man’s revelation. She stands up and screams her heart out, realizing that evil men and her misunderstanding of the events at Unpyeong Temple have turned her life upside down.

Lee Gyeom finds out that the paper store manager has been missing for the past several days. He remembers what the manager said about Min Chi-hyung taking care of the mess that the Prime Minister’s son creates.

Hwieumdang remembers how Min Chi-hyung ordered her to poison his father-in-law and how she got her false identity. That night, putting on a disguise, she goes to Biikdang and amazes everyone with her masterful playing of the gayageum.

The King scolds Lee Gyeom for not being discreet in investigating the corrupt activities of the ministers. When Lee Gyeom says that the Head Teacher of Jungbu School is the King’s loyal subject, the King becomes angry and tells him that the Head Teacher is lucky not to have been killed along with the other members of Sir Jo Gwang-jo’s group.

The drifters are thrown into jail. But Saimdang gets them released by putting up her house and land as collateral to pay for their unpaid taxes of 900 sacks of grains and 200 rolls of cotton. She promises the Police Chief that she and the drifters will pay the balance within 30 days. She also promises that if the drifters cause any problem or run away, she can be arrested in their place.

When the drifters start arguing among themselves, the old man gives Saimdang the secret to making Goryeo paper.

Lee Gyeom learns from his friend (the Head Teacher) how the King’s poem caused the death of Saimdang’s father. Riding his horse day and night, Lee Gyeom races to Saimdang’s ancestral house in Gangneum. When Saimdang’s mother refuses to meet him, he kneels on the ground and pleads to talk with her.

Lee Gyeom begs on his knees for Saimdang’s mother to talk to him, but she refuses. Upon learning that Saimdang’s father sent a letter to his great aunt before he died, Lee Gyeom goes to see her. But his great aunt refuses to tell him what’s in the letter.

The old man says that the expensive Goryeo paper that Saimdang and the drifters bought from Min Chi-hyung’s store is inferior in quality. He tells Saimdang that he needs to touch a sample of genuine Goryeo paper so that he can reconstruct how the paper was made in Unpyeong Temple.

Hwieumdang hires someone to create trouble in Saimdang’s paper mill.

Lee Won-su, Saimdang’s husband, messes up again, this time with the face powder that he bought for Saimdang.

The King senses that the top ministers are beginning to fight each other over promotions; he needs Lee Gyeom to drive the ministers farther apart. But Lee Gyeom is missing, and no one knows where he went. The ministers begin to sow intrigues, suggesting that Lee Gyeom has abandoned the King and has gone back to his wild, carefree days.

Returning to Hanyang at night, Lee Gyeom challenges Min Chi-hyung to a sword fight.

Episode 13: The confrontation and the hunt

Episode 12 recap:

When Lee Gyeom tells his great aunt about the King’s poem, she warns him that he’s putting Saimdang and himself in danger again. She tells Lee Gyeom: “You cannot make the King your enemy. That’s the only way you can protect the woman you love!”

On his way back to Hanyang, Lee Gyeom falls off his horse.

The King visits Biikdang incognito, but no one can tell him where Lee Gyeom is. Worried, the King orders his bodyguard to look for Lee Gyeom.

Saimdang remembers that her father’s letter is written on Goryeo paper from Unpyeong Temple. The old man confirms that it’s indeed genuine Goryeo paper, but their attempts to reconstruct how the paper was made in Unpyeong Temple fails again and again.

Hwieumdang hires Saimdang’s former paper artisan to create trouble in her paper mill.

Lee Gyeom goes back to Sujinbang and surprises Saimdang by embracing her. He tells Saimdang: “I’m sorry; for so long, how did you endure everything for me? I’m alive because of your sacrifice. Now, it’s my turn to live for you. I’ll become the most powerful man in Joseon so that you can paint all you want without any worries.”

Saimdang pushes Lee Gyeom away as the drifters start coming back to the paper mill. Unknown to them, Min Chi-hyung has been watching them from a distance. Later, Lee Gyeom sees the Police Chief talking with Min Chi-hyung.

Lee Gyeom meets the King’s bodyguard and tells him: “What hurts me most is that it’s the King who made my life hell.” But the bodyguard replies: “The King has been living in hell his entire life. He feared being killed by King Yeonsan; as Crown Prince, he feared the ministers; as King, he lost his precious Queen when she was dethroned.”

Echoing what Lee Gyeom’s great aunt told him, the King’s bodyguard counsels Lee Gyeom: “Don’t make the King your enemy. If you can’t love the King, at least pretend to love him. That’s how you can protect Saimdang.”

Later, Lee Gyeom sends his falcon with a message for his close friend, Lord So, who is Joseon’s delegate to Ming.

Lee Won Su, Saimdang’s husband, messes up again, this time with the face powder that he bought for Saimdang; the powder creates rashes all over Maek-chang’s and Woo’s faces. When he goes to confront the tavern owner who sold the face powder to him, he gets ensnared in another scam.

Lee Gyeom challenges Min Chi-hyung to a sword fight. He could have killed Min Chi-hyung, but their swords get broken into half. Walking away, he passes by a stunned Hwieumdang and tells her: “You disgust me!”

Min Chi-hyung and Hwieumdang plan their revenge against Lee Gyeom by using Saimdang’s sketch book and ribbon. Hwieumdang says: “Betrayal is more bitter the closer you are to the person. Lee Gyeom is the only Royal Family member whom the King wants at his side. The card we hold is the most powerful.” When Min Chi-hyung replies that the fruit is not yet ripe, Hwieumdang says, “When the fruit is ripe, I’ll pick it for you.”

Alone later on, Hwieumdang thinks about Lee Gyeom’s words to her and vows: “Disgust? I’ll show you what disgusting envy looks like.”

Saimdang and Hyang are on their way back to the paper mill when Hyang sees rows of lights along their path. Saimdang smiles seeing the lights; when Hyang sees Lee Gyeom at the other end of the path, two men quickly grab her, leaving Saimdang and Lee Gyeom by themselves.

Lee Gyeom tells Saimdang: “Keep smiling. You look the best when you smile that way. Do you like the lights?”

Lee Gyeom continues: “Everything that happened 20 years ago - the reason you had to leave me and marry another man, what the drifters mean to you, and why you must make paper with them - I know everything now. I understand you.”

Saimdang replies: “You just have to live your life, and I’ll live on with my own life. Please don’t worry about me anymore. You just go on with your life.”

Lee Gyeom answers back: “How can I when I now know about everything? How can you think that’s possible? If I were you and you were me, if we are in each other’s place, could you just live on?”

Lee Gyeom continues pleading with Saimdang: “You can continue to live your life. For the drifters and for your family. If that’s the path you must walk on, then go ahead. But for me, I’ll always be standing right where you can see me.”

When Saimdang protests that it cannot be and that he’s being reckless, Lee Gyeom says: “I don’t care if you’re another man’s wife, or if you’ll never look at me. Even if our paths are parallel and we’ll never be able to meet, I’ll walk along with you for the rest of my life!’

(Note: The dialogues quoted above are from the Dramacool website’s video of this episode, with some editing.)

The academic rivalry between Saimdang’s son (Hyun-ryong) and Hwieumdang’s son (Ji-gyoon) results in an incident that forces Saimdang to attend the Mothers’ Club meeting the next day. At the meeting, Hwieumdang and the Prime Minister’s wife ask the other mothers to expel Hyun-ryong because his family has “damaged the school’s dignity.”

On Lee Gyeom’s suggestion, the King asks the ministers to go with them on a hunting trip. At the hunt, Lee Gyeom breaks off from the other hunters; Min Chi-hyung follows him and tips his arrow with poison.

Episode 14: The portraits of a Joseon beauty and the goddess

Episode 13 recap:

Hyun-ryong beats Ji-gyoon by getting the first place in an essay-writing assignment. At lunchtime, Hyun-ryong’s classmates taunt him by asking why he’s only eating rice during lunchtime when everyone else is eating lots of food prepared by their servants. Later, Ji-gyoon tears up Hyun-ryong’s essay, and a fight ensues between them. When Hwieumdang sees Ji-gyoon with a bloody nose, she slaps Hyun-ryong twice and threatens the Head Teacher.

That night, the deposed Queen sees Hyun-ryong crying by her fence. The next day, the Queen asks her attendant to fetch Saimdang from the paper mill. The Queen tells Saimdang that she’s required to attend a meeting at Jungbu School. As she gives Saimdang a jacket and dress made of expensive Chinese silk, she says, “Think about your discouraged son and how he feels.”

When Saimdang arrives at the meeting, she impresses the other mothers with the way she looks and the expensive silk dress she’s wearing. But Hwieumdang and the Prime Minister’s wife begin at once to bully her by saying that Hyun-ryong must be expelled from school because his family has “damaged the school’s dignity.”

Hwieumdang says that while the mothers all have husbands who are court officials, Saimdang’s husband has failed the civil service exams for the last 20 years. Saimdang defends her husband saying, “Being a good father doesn’t only mean being rich and famous; a father who loves his children and always makes them smile, this is the kind and sweet father that my husband is.” But Hwieumdang retorts, “That’s just a nice way of saying that your husband is a jobless bum!”

Saimdang then quotes examples from history and literature of men who were not court officials but who “sympathized with the weak and set a good example, or wrote great poems that are still influencing people beyond their times.” But Hwieumdang says, “Your husband is the biggest loser of all for having failed the exams for the last 20 years!”

Hwieumdang then says that Saimdang herself has damaged the school’s dignity by engaging in manual labor and working with drifters. Saimdang replies that she’s making paper that’s a necessity for students. She asks if the mothers would like to go back to the days when students had to read books written on bamboo strips.

Hwieumdang says that Saimdang has been wearing peasant’s clothes. She also mentions that Saimdang’s silk skirt is a royal color and asks if her neighbor, the deposed Queen, gave her the clothes. The other mothers are shocked at the mention of the deposed Queen whom they say is a traitor’s daughter.

Saimdang says that her clothes do not define who she really is. (When she mentions the “yeonji” color, Hwieumdang realizes that Saimdang already knows that she was the lowborn Seok Soon.) Saimdang defends herself by saying, “ A gourd’s flowers may look simple, but a gourd can feed a whole family. A lotus flower may look fancy, but its fruit is no better than dates or chestnuts.”

The Prime Minister’s wife and some of the mothers are offended by what Saimdang said; they ask, “Are you saying that we look fancy, but like a lotus fruit, we don’t have substance?”

On Hwieumdang’s signal, the Prime Minister’s wife then says that Saimdang’s father was jailed during the Gi-myo incident. The other mothers begin saying that someone with a traitor in his family is not fit to be a student in Jungbu School. Saimdang defends her father by saying that he was found innocent of the charge against him. She then quotes from the Classic of Filial Piety: “Even if my father was guilty, a child hiding her father’s crime and not reporting it honestly, that’s compassion. How can you accuse a child for his father’s crime?’

(When Saimdang mentions her father’s name, Tae-ryong’s mother recognizes that Saimdang was her classmate 20 years ago.)

Hwieumdang and the Prime Minister’s wife call for a majority vote on Hyun-ryong’s expulsion. But the vote is tied 7-7. Hwieumdang then calls for a tea break. When Saimdang overhears from a mother that Hwieumdang slapped Hyun-ryong twice, she seethes in anger.

The Prime Minister’s wife whispers to the servant to spill tea on Saimdang’s silk dress. But Tae-ryong’s mother hears the instruction and trips up the servant. The tea is spilled on the silk skirt of the young mother sitting next to Saimdang. The young mother becomes hysterical and cries out that she only borrowed her silk clothes from her neighbor. The Prime Minister’s wife, Hwieumdang, and the other mothers are aghast by that sudden confession and say that the young mother has been deceiving them about being rich.

Saimdang realizes that she was the real target and pities the young mother; she orders the servant to get some ink and a brush. After some hesitation, Saimdang begins painting grapevines and grapes on the silk skirt. The mothers are stunned at Saimdang’s masterful and graceful strokes, with some remarking that she’s better than Hwieumdang. After Saimdang finishes the painting, she says that “there is no border between ugliness and beauty.” She and Tae-ryong’s mother tell the young mother that she can sell the silk skirt for a very high price.

Saimdang then tells the mothers that she is voluntarily withdrawing Hyun-ryong from the school. The Head Teacher pleads with her to reconsider, but Saimdang stands firm.

Hwieumdang wants to have the last word, and as Saimdang is about to leave, she says, “You’re not quitting, I’m throwing you out.” Saimdang recalls that Hwieumdang saved her in Unpyeongsa and thanks her for it. But she also tells Hwieumdang, “I don’t know how you became a nobleman’s wife, but you have lost your kind heart. You may look like a splendid butterfly on the outside, but on the inside you’re still a larva.”

Later, Saimdang tells Hyung-ryong about her decision. He pleads that he won’t ever fight with Ji-gyoon again and that he wants to continue studying at Jungbu School. But Saimdang tells him that she heard him at school that day and says that he has become vain and arrogant. She says, “You’re born with tremendous talent that other people don’t have. If you fail to use your gift for the right cause and use it instead to ignore or humiliate other people, it means you don’t deserve such a gift. Your character is more important than your talent.”

That night as they’re about to sleep, Saimdang tells Hyun-ryong, “I love everyone, you, your brothers, and your sister, equally and incredibly. But I pity you the most because with your talent and ambitions, I can’t do much for you. That’s why I will work much harder in order to give you the wings you deserve. I’ll work hard and go beyond my limit. Will you accept your mother’s heart?” Hyun -ryong says yes and replies, “I so sincerely want to give you the life that you deserve; I want to make you proud of me!”

At the hunt, Lee Gyeom presents the King with his painting of a falcon. (Before the hunt, he has given the King a fan with his delicate painting using cinnabar, with a dragon design on the handle and a jade ornament.) With a veiled criticism of the ministers, he explains to the King the meaning of the falcon as a talisman against evil. The King tries but hesitates in writing a poem on the painting.

When Lee Gyeom separates himself from the other hunters to track down a pheasant, Min Chi-hyung aims his poison-tipped arrow at him. The arrow flies past Lee Gyeom’s face and hits a wild boar behind him. Later, Lee Gyeom shocks the ministers when he asks Min Chi-hyung pointblank, “Were you aiming at the wild boar or at me?”

The King and the ministers are forced to return to the Palace because a Ming ambassador is coming with a personal message from the Emperor. The message complains about the inferior quality of the Goryeo paper that Joseon has been sending to Ming. The King becomes frightened that there’s a hidden motive in the Emperor’s message; he immediately orders his bodyguard and the Head Eunuch to find anyone who can make the highest-quality Goryeo paper.

Min Chi-hyung begins preparing more bribes to be given to the Ming ambassador. Meanwhile, Lord So (Joseon ambassador to Ming and Lee Gyeom’s close friend) warns Lee Gyeom that Min Chi-hyung is a dangerous enemy.

Lee Gyeom finds out from his nephew that all of Hanyang is talking about and praising Saimdang’s painting on a silk skirt. Despite his plea with the store owner that he will pay triple the selling price for the painting, the store owner refuses.

Hwieumdang has bought the painting and in rage, burns it up. She vows, “Saimdang and Lee Gyeom, I will destroy all of you arrogant aristocrats!”

(Note: The dialogues quoted above are from the Dramacool website’s video of this episode, with some editing.)

Hwieumdang goes to Biikdang again at night and in disguise; she mesmerizes everyone with her dance.

Saimdang brings 3,000 sheets of high-quality paper to the Police Chief, but he refuses to extend the deadline for paying the overdue taxes of the drifters.

Saimdang and two of the drifters come across the bulletin that announces a Joseon-wide search for anyone who can supply the government with the highest-quality Goryeo paper.

Min Chi-hyung goes to the Ming ambassador’s residence with his cartload of bribes. Later, the ambassador demands that Joseon must deliver within four days the Goryeo paper that the Emperor wants.

Lee Gyeom convinces the ambassador to give Joseon 15 days within which to deliver the Goryeo paper that the Emperor wants. Later, the King grants Lee Gyeom the power and authority over the Paper Production Office. Casting aside the ministers’ objections, the King also orders Lee Gyeom to arrest and interrogate anyone involved in the paper scandal.

Hyun-ryong goes to Biikdang and tells Lee Gyeom that his mother has withdrawn him from Jungbu School.

Lee Won-su falls asleep again at the temple during his study time, and the Head Monk disciplines him.

Man-deuk, the paper artisan, steals a sample of Saimdang’s Goryeo paper and gives it to Hwieumdang.

Min Chi-hyung orders his men to arrest and lock up Saimdang, while policemen arrive at the paper mill and surround the drifters.

At present …

Ji-yoon informs the owner of Seon Gallery that the gallery’s “Mount Geumgang” painting is fake. Meanwhile, Prof. Min finds out that RADE is investigating the painting’s authenticity.

Warned by the gallery owner that he can be fired at any time, Prof. Min forces his way into Ji-yoon’s house and then threatens her.

Episode 15: Choices and revelations at the cliff

Episode 14 recap:

Hwieumdang disguises herself as the “Black Peony” and tries to get more information from Lord So about the Ming ambassador. But Lord So refuses her offer to help entertain the ambassador. Later, Lee Gyeom recognizes from Lord So’s description that “Black Peony” is none other than Hwieumdang.

Saimdang brings 3,000 sheets of high-quality paper to the Police Chief, but he refuses to extend the deadline for paying the overdue taxes of the drifters.

Man Deuk steals a sample of Saimdang’s paper and gives it to Hwieumdang. She becomes alarmed after finding out that the quality of the paper is better than that of the paper she supplies to the Paper Production Office.

The bulletin posted at the market announces that people who want to be the government’s supplier must submit their sample of Goryeo paper by the end of the month and that the winner will be given a store and appointed as the government’s exclusive supplier. Saimdang tells the drifters with her that this is their biggest opportunity to make their lives better.

Min Chi-hyung fails to bribe one of the lesser officials at the Ming ambassador’s residence. When Lee Gyeom and Lord So see him there, Lord So tells him to stay away from the ambassador.

Lee Gyeom convinces the ambassador to give Joseon 15 days within which to deliver the Goryeo paper that the Emperor wants. Later, the King grants Lee Gyeom the power and authority over the Paper Production Office. Casting aside the ministers’ objections, the King also orders Lee Gyeom to arrest and interrogate anyone involved in the paper scandal.

On Lee Gyeom’s orders, policemen raid the Paper Production Office, seizing documents and arresting its officials. Jangwon paper Store is also raided, but Hwieumdang has already hidden its ledgers and other documents.

Enraged by Lee Gyeom’s actions, Min Chi-hyung orders his men to snatch Saimdang. But his men fail because Lee Gyeom has ordered police officers and their men to guard Saimdang’s paper mill.

On her way back to the paper mill, Saimdang meets Lee Gyeom. He gives her a bunch of flowers that she reluctantly accepts. Lee Gyeom says, “I saw your painting on the silk skirt, and it made me very happy.” When Saimdang replies that she just picked up the brush to help a lady in need and that it doesn’t mean anything beyond that, Lee Gyeom says, “Then I’ll just make ladies in need keep appearing before you.”

Lee Gyeom continues, “When I saw from your painting that your talent has not faded and has actually become better, it made my heart flutter.” Saimdang replies, “Painting is a luxury for me now, and these flowers make me feel uncomfortable. I won’t accept any more gifts from you from now on.”

But Saimdang’s mood brightens when Lee Gyeom gives her a sample of a 200-year old paper with the texture and quality that the Ming royalty value highly. Lee Gyeom says, “Use this to make Unpyeongsa Goryeo paper, and on that paper, do your art.”

That night, Lee Gyeom meets Hyun-ryong in Biikdang. Hyun-ryong tells him that his mother has withdrawn him from Jungbu School. He also says that he resents and, at the same time, pities his father who has failed the state exams for the last 20 years.

After meeting Saimdang’s husband at the temple, Lee Gyeom uses his influence to get him  appointed to a 7th rank position at the Office of Translations. Going home, Lee Won-su proudly informs Saimdang and their children that he has been appointed as a government official. Later, he wants to have some conjugal time with Saimdang, but he falls asleep waiting for her. When he wakes up, Saimdang is gone. Along with his neatly sewn and pressed uniform, he finds a letter from Saimdang.

Saimdang thinks that the secret to making Goryeo paper is hidden in the painting of the Buddhist goddess that she saw 20 years ago. She and old man Pal Bong leave the paper mill and begin trekking back to Unpyeong Temple.

By threatening the paper artisan, Hwieumdang finds out that Saimdang is on her way to Unpyeong Temple to find the secret of making the genuine Goryeo paper. She and her men ride on horses and race towards Unpyeong Temple.

Trudging through the deep snow, Saimdang remembers the recent events between her and Lee Gyeom.

Present time …

Ji-yoon informs the owner of Seon Gallery that the gallery’s “Mount Geumgang” painting is fake. Meanwhile, Prof. Min finds out that RADE is investigating the painting’s authenticity.

Warned by the gallery owner that he can be fired at any time, Prof. Min forces his way into Ji-yoon’s house and then threatens her. Later, he orders his assistants to break into and search Ji-yoon’s house.

Ji-yoon finds something odd at the back of the “Portrait of a Joseon Beauty” and calls Hye-jung and Han Sang-hyun for an urgent meeting at the club. Despite being followed by Prof. Min’s assistants, Ji-yoon, Han Sang-hyun, and Hye-jung work at the club and begin peeling off the paper at the back of the portrait. To their shock, they find, hidden behind the portrait, the genuine “Mount Geumgang” painting.

Saimdang and old man Pal Bong reach Unpyeongsa and start looking for the painting of the Buddhist goddess. But soon after, Hwieumdang and her men arrive and start chasing them.

Min Chi-hyung visits Noble Lady Nam at a temple; she was the favored concubine of King Seonjong and a trusted adviser of King Jungjong. Min Chi-hyung tries to convince her to return to Hanyang and help stabilize King Jungjong’s reign. But she refuses, thinking that Min Chi-hyung has ulterior motives.

Lee Gyeom orders the arrest of Min Chi-hyung.

Hwieumdang and her men corner Saimdang at a cliff.

Present time …

Han Sang-hyun wants to immediately call a press conference and announce that they have found the genuine “Mount Geumgang” painting. But as Ji-yoon and Hye-jung try to dissuade him, Prof. Min and his assistants manage to get inside the club. Ji-yoon, Han Sang-hyun, and Hye-jung lock themselves inside the room.

Episode 16: Danger and intimacy in the forest

Episode 15 recap:

Min Chi-hyung tries to convince Noble Lady Nam to return to Hanyang and help stabilize King Jungjong’s reign. She refuses at first, thinking that Min Chi-hyung has ulterior motives. But when she finds out that Lee Gyeom is the grandson of her family’s mortal enemy, she agrees. On their way back to Hanyang, however, Lee Gyeom blocks their way and orders Min Chi-hyung arrested for bribing the previous Ming ambassador.

When the Prime Minister hesitates in helping him, Min Chi-hyung vows to retaliate.

Lee Gyeom finds out that Saimdang has gone to Unpyeongsa and that Hwieumdang and her men have gone there too. He races after them.

Saimdang and old man Pal Bong fail to find the painting of the Buddhist goddess. Chased by Hwieumdang’s men, they’re helped by an old man.

Because of the darkness, Hwieumdang and her men stop searching for Saimdang. On their way and at the inn, Hwieumdang is overwhelmed by memories of herself as the lowborn Seok Soon.

The old man later gives Saimdang the painting of the Buddhist goddess; it was entrusted to him by Unpyeongsa’s Head Monk on the night before the massacre. On the back of the painting is a poem:

“The glow of fireflies in the night air, The autumn forest is rich, Man is as worthy as gold, But he will return to white soil tomorrow.”

The next day, Hwieumdang and her men kill the old man when he covers up for Saimdang. On the mountain, Pal Bong sees the men and shouts at Saimdang to run. Saimdang screams as she sees Pal Bong stabbed repeatedly. In the distance, Lee Gyeom hears Saimdang’s screams and rushes to her.

Cornered at a cliff, Saimdang refuses to hand over the painting to Hwieumdang. When Hwieumdang’s men close in to kill her, Lee Gyeom arrives and engages the men in a sword fight.

Lee Gyeom kills all the men, but Hwieumdang threatens Saimdang with a knife. She mocks Lee Gyeom by saying, “Go ahead and keep attacking like an angry tiger! Are you afraid I might do something to this woman? What’s so important about this woman?”

When Lee Gyeom says that he will spare her if he lets Saimdang go, Hwieumdang retorts, “Or what? You will have two dead women right in front of you. What’s so great about her? Why does it have to be her, not me? Why? Why?”

Disregarding Lee Gyeom’s pleas to stop, Hwieumdang tells him, “You shouldn’t have been kind to me in the first place. You even gave me a brush, saying it’s great that I am studying hard despite poverty.”

Hwieumdang continues, “You left me alone on the mountain when I was hurt. You went away taking Saimdang alone. Is it that lowborn people like me can be just left to die? Is that it?”

Hwieumdang then reveals, “I threw you two in the pit of hell, with my own hand. I wanted to ruin your lives. It was me who left her sketchbook and ribbon for them to find.”

Hwieumdang and Saimdang fall off the cliff, but they manage to hold on to some branches. Lee Gyeom reaches out to help Saimdang. As the branch that Hwieumdang is holding on to begins to break, Saimdang reaches out to help her. Lee Gyeom manages to pull both of them back to safety.

Before leaving the seemingly-chastened Hwieumdang, Saimdang tells her, “Now I don’t owe you anything anymore.”

As Lee Gyeom and Saimdang travel back to Hanyang, he begins to have flashes in his mind of future events.

Present time …

Han Sang-hyun wants to immediately call a press conference and announce that they have found the genuine “Mount Geumgang” painting. But Ji-yoon and Hye-jung remind him that they still have a lot of work to do.

Prof. Min and his assistants manage to get inside the club. But Ji-yoon, Han Sang-hyun, and Hye-jung lock themselves inside the room. As Prof. Min walks away from the door, they realize that they have to take the painting out of the club. Han Sang-hyun and Ji-yoon then dress in costumes so as to blend in with the crowd in the club. Han Sang-hyun dresses up as a pirate, while Ji-yoon wears a “Lady Vengeance” dress.

As Prof. Min confronts Ji-yoon, she begins remembering all the sacrifices and menial task she had to do for him. She takes off her glasses and thinks, “Prof. Min, you’re finished!”

Note: The dialogues quoted above are from the subtitles in the Dramacool website video.

Prof. Min confronts Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun about what they’re doing in the club and why they need taffy oil. His assistants, meanwhile, continue looking for Hye-jung.

Back to Joseon …

With support from the Left and Right Ministers, the Prime Minister urges the King to hold Min Chi-hyung responsible for creating the crisis with Ming. More paranoid than ever, the King agrees and orders Min Chi-hyung’s execution.

Later, while visiting his mother’s royal tomb, the King meets Noble Lady Nam.

Saimdang and Lee Gyeom travel slowly back to Hanyang. On the other hand, an emotionally-broken Hwieumdang meets someone on the road.

Lee Won-su goes to the police station and pleads with the policemen to organize a search and rescue squad.

The King is warned by his bodyguard that Lee Gyeom’s life is in danger and that he must send the royal guards to rescue Lee Gyeom. But the King says that the more dire situation is that the Emperor’s deadline ends in just seven days, and the Paper Production Office still hasn’t produced the required paper.

Episode 17: The secret of Unpyeongsa Goryeo paper

Episode 16 recap:

Hye-jung hides the painting inside the guitar case of Han Sang-hyun’s girl friend; she then escapes from the club by dressing up as the Singing Nun.

Later, Ji-yoon goes to the subway terminal; she leaves in the locker some money and a note for her husband saying that she won’t divorce him.

Back to Joseon ...

Saimdang tells Lee Gyeom to ride the horse with her so that they can get back to Hanyang as quickly as possible. Meanwhie, an emotionally-broken Hwieumdang meets on the street his seriously-injured assistant.

The King changes his mind about executing Min Chi-hyung after Noble Lady Nam advises him to balance his government with both loyal and disloyal officials.

Upon his release, Min Chi-hyung visits Noble Lady Nam, who tells him that in order to survive, he must become invaluable to the King by producing the Goryeo paper that the Emperor demands.

But Min Chi-hyung instead gathers his men and begins searching for Lee Gyeom in the mountains near Hanyang.

The King is warned by his bodyguard that Lee Gyeom’s life is in danger and that he must send the royal guards to rescue Lee Gyeom. But the King says that the more dire situation is that the Emperor’s deadline ends in just seven days, and the Paper Production Office still hasn’t produced the required paper.

Min Chi-hyung and his men corner Lee Gyeom and Saimdang in the forest. In the ensuing fight, Min Chi-hyung slashes Lee Gyeom’s right arm. As Saimdang tries to protect Lee Gyeom, they fall into a ravine and are able to escape.

Lee Won-su panics and goes to the police headquarters asking for help in finding Saimdang. The policemen at first mock him, saying that his wife has truly abandoned him. But later on, they recognize him as the man who treated them to drinks and food at the tavern. They organize a search squad and begin searching the “cheating forest.”

In their hiding place, as Saimdang tends to his wound, Lee Gyeom tells her, “I have this dream once in a while, how we used to run around in the fields, make colors, and draw paintings. I dreamed of the time 20 years ago. It’s as if they happened just yesterday. I can endure through the rest of my life by holding on to that memory. That audacious girl who jumped over the wall just to peek at the “Mount Geumgang” painting, if only I could see you paint again, that’s all I want.”

As Lee Gyeom loses consciousness, Saimdang touches his face and says, “You’ll live through this because you have always been strong!”

At the Palace, the King regrets his decision not to help Lee Gyeom; he immediately orders Lord So and the royal guards to rescue Lee Gyeom.

At the forest, Min Chi-hyung orders his men to kill Lee Won-su and the policemen. But Lord So and the royal guards arrive.

Lee Gyeom regains consciousness and tells Saimdang, “I don’t think that’s it’s all bad to have been injured like this. What other time could I be deeply cared for by you?” As he reaches out to touch Saimdang’s face, she turns to avoid his touch.

They hear Lee Won-su and the policemen calling for her, and Lee Gyeom tells Saimdang to go on ahead and meet her husband. As she turns to leave, Lee Gyeom remembers the day Saimdang got married, seeing her leave for Hanyang, and meeting her again.

Note: Dialogues quoted above are from the subtitles in the Dramacool website video, with some editing.

The King tells Lee Gyeom and Min Chi-hyung that whoever brings him the Goryeo paper that the Ming Emperor wants is his loyal subject.

Hwieumdang gathers all the best scholars in Hanyang to interpret the poem that holds the key to making Unpyeongsa Goryeo paper. Meanwhile, Lee Gyeom offers to Saimdang the help of Biikdang’s scholars.

Present times ...

The chairman of the Seonjin Group has taken out a loan of US 50 million dollars using the “Mount Geumgang” painting as collateral. The conflict between him and his wife (the director of Seon Gallery) heightens when he finds out that she has met with Ji-yoon and is starting to think that the painting is fake. They threaten to expose each other’s illegal activities.

Breaking into a secluded van, Ji-yoon’s husband finds the documents detailing the illegal transactions of the Seonjin Group and the gallery.

Prof. Min’s assistants break into Ji-yoon’s apartment and find a printout of Saimdang’s diary that mentions the “Mount Geumgang” painting.

Episode 18: The vindication

Episode 17 recap:

Lee Gyeom is shocked and becomes angry when the King refuses to arrest and punish Min Chi-hyung. But Lord So advises him to calm down and learn from Noble Lady Nam’s example who speaks softly but influences the King the most.

Min Chi-hyung finds out that Hwieumdang has been disguising herself as the Black Peony. He threatens and abuses her.

When the scholars fail to interpret the poem, Hwieumdang brings in an expert code breaker from the Ministry of War. The code breaker soon after learns the meaning of the poem.

On the other hand, Saimdang learns how to decode the poem through an innocent remark by her youngest son Woo.

The secret to making Unpyeongsa Goryeo paper is mixing the pulps of mulberry and wisteria trees in the right ratio.

Lee Gyeom threatens the Prime Minister and the top two ministers that he will report their corrupt activities to the King unless they work with him against Min Chi-hyung. But Min Chi-hyung threatens the ministers that there will be a massacre in the court after the Goryeo paper competition.

After numerous experiments and failures on the proper ratio between mulberry and wisteria pulp, Saimdang and the drifters finally succeed in reproducing the famous Goryeo paper from Unpyeongsa. But on Min Chi-hyung’s orders, Man Deuk (the paper artisan) burns down the shed where Saimdang has stored all the paper.

On the day of the competition, Hwieumdang and Min Chi-hyung’s paper store becomes one of the two finalists. In the presence of the King, the Ming envoy, and the ministers, Lord So calls Hwieumdang and the owner of Yangyoo Paper Production Office to come forward. To everyone’s surprise, Saimdang comes forward and identifies herself as the owner.

Present times ...

Breaking into a secluded van, Ji-yoon’s husband finds the documents detailing the illegal transactions of the Seonjin Group and the gallery.

Prof. Min’s assistants break into Ji-yoon’s apartment and find a printout of Saimdang’s diary that mentions the “Mount Geumgang” painting. They give the printout to Prof. Min, who later on proposes to the Seonjin Group chairman a radical solution to the whole mess. Unknown to them, someone has bugged the chairman’s office and is using a drone to record their conversation.

The owner of Seon Gallery decides to fight against her husband and cancels the “Mount Geumgang” exhibition. She contacts Ji-yoon and arranges to have the genuine painting delivered to the gallery. But as Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun are on their way, Prof. Min and his men block them and hijack the painting.

Modern times ...

Han Sang-hyun and Hye-jung report the robbery to the police, while Ji-yoon tells the gallery’s director to do something immediately.

Ji-yoon’s husband gets the evidence that Seonjin Group is using the gallery to channel its slush fund. He sets up a meeting with his friend who’s also an executive of their failed company.

Later, Prof. Min calls Ji-yoon for a meeting at the gallery.

Joseon times ...

Lord So and the other officials say that the papers from Saimdang and from Min Chi-hyung’s Jangwon Paper Store are both excellent. To break the tie, the Ming ambassador asks the King to order Saimdang and Hwieumdang to paint on their papers. But Min Chi-hyung connives with a court official to sabotage Saimdang’s painting.

Episode 19: The concubine

Episode 18 recap:

Modern times ...

Previous to the robbery, Han Sang-hyun and Hye-jung have asked the help of RADE (a group that investigates art forgeries). But the police investigators can’t find any security footage of the robbery.

The friend of Ji-yoon’s husband betrays him to the chairman of Seonjin Group. On the way, they fight to take control of the car. But in trying to avoid an oncoming truck, they lose control of the wheel, and the car jumps over a cliff.

Ji-yoon, Han Sang-hyun, and Hye-jung arrive at the gallery to meet Prof. Min. To their utter disbelief and horror, Prof. Min burns Ji-yoon’s “Mount Geumgang” painting.

Joseon times ...

Lee Gyeom has found out that Man Deuk (the paper artisan) has been reporting secretly to Min Chi-hyung. With the drifters, he captures and interrogates Man Deuk, who confesses everything. Lee Gyeom convinces Saimdang to transfer all of their Unpyeongsa Goryeo paper to a safe place and to burn the shed in order to mislead Min Chi-hyung and his men.

Min Chi-hyung connives with a court official to tamper with Saimdang’s pigments. While Hwieumdang quickly works on her multi-colored painting of flowers and butterflies, Saimdang stands transfixed, not knowing what to do. Then she sees some cherries near her and starts picking them. She mashes them up and uses the red juice to color her painting of plum blossoms.

Later, the Ming ambassador describes how he feels about her painting: “You only used black ink and red color. The painting has an unaffected feeling. The roughness of the branches is so well illustrated that I can feel their texture on my hand. I get the impression of dignified plum blossom that blooms beautifully despite how harsh its environment is.”

When the King asks the ambassador why he chose Saimdang’s paper as the best, he says, “It’s the same logic as a woman with beautiful skin; she doesn’t need heavy make-up. It felt as if I were touching old Goryeo paper I had once come across.”

The King asks Saimdang, “Is it because you believe how sturdy and good your paper is?” Saimdang replies, “I used the red stains from the cherries only because I wanted to express the grace and purity of the plum blossoms.”

When the King asks about the poem she wrote on her painting (“The caresses of many cold hands brought about Spring”), Saimdang says that it reflects her gratitude for the drifters who have helped her in producing the paper.

Later, Lee Gyeom urges the King to punish Min Chi-hyung. He presents Man Deuk (the paper artisan) who testifies that Min Chi-hyung ordered him to burn up all of Saimdang’s paper. He also presents the Prime Minister’s son who testifies that Min Chi-hyung ordered the massacre at Unpyeong Temple 20 years ago.

Min Chi-hyung is exiled, and his assets are confiscated. But he orders Hwieumdang to use their hidden assets to gain his freedom.

As they watch Min Chi-hyung being sent into exile, Saimdang thanks Lee Gyeom for all that he has done for her and the drifters. As she turns to leave, he stops her by holding her hand. He says,”I didn’t do it just so you would thank me.” They look at each other intensely, remembering everything that have happened, until Saimdang walks away.

Two years later ...

Saimdang and the drifters have become prosperous paper merchants and have established themselves in a place called Willow Village. The village has its own school run by Hyun-ryong. Sun works at a blacksmith’s shop, while Mae-chang has become a proficient painter.

Saimdang’s paintings have become famous all over Joseon, and buyers line up to see her.

Meanwhile, Lee Gyeom has embarked on a personal mission to fight the Japanese pirates who are trafficking men and women from Joseon.

After Ji-yoon, Han Sang-hyun, and Hye-jung are kicked out of the gallery, Ji-yoon gets a telephone call from the police headquarters.

Joseon times ...

Lee Gyeom accompanies to Hanyang the people he saved from the Japanese raiders. He returns to Biikdang, which has become even more famous with its events and programs. Later, he visits the King at the Palace. While there, he meets the King’s daughter, Princess Jeongsun.

Hwieumdang visits her husband Min Chi-hyung in his place of exile.

Unknown to Saimdang and her kids, Lee Won-su has taken the tavern owner as his concubine. She has become more possessive and demands more money and things from him. Later, she visit Saimdang’s paper store.

Walking home alone at night, Saimdang sees Lee Won-su. She decides to follow him and see where he’s going.

Episode 20: The paintings; love and respect

Episode 19 recap:

Ji-yoon is informed by the police that her husband most probably died in the car accident. Later, she takes her traumatized son to recuperate at her father’s place.

The people whom Lee Gyeom saved from the Japanese raiders tell him that they want shelter and start a new life in Saimdang’s village in Hanyang.

Min Chi-hyung has almost become insane because of his exile. He gets beaten up by the officer guarding him.

To raise money for Min Chi-hyung’s freedom, Hwieumdang trades Buddhist artifacts with the Japanese raiders. She refuses, however, when the Japanese ask her to deliver to them beautiful Joseon women.

At Biikdang, Lee Gyeom regales the staff and his friends with stories of his travels to faraway lands, blue-eyed people, and exotic cultures. He shows them pepper, which he says is more precious than gold. Taking the pepper and smelling them, the bald-headed Mong-ryung sneezes and wonders what pepper is good for.

Lee Gyeom visits the King who tells him that because of his poor health, he wants to abdicate in favor of the Crown Prince. He also meets the King’s spoiled daughter, Princess Jeongsun. She’s so spoiled that she refuses to live with her husband and grabs the King’s fan that Lee Gyeom painted several years ago. She tells the King that she wants private tutoring in painting from Saimdang.

Unknown to Saimdang and her kids, Lee Won-su has taken the tavern owner as his concubine and that she’s now pregnant. Later the concubine visits Saimdang’s paper store and picks a fight with the drifters/paper merchants, claiming that they’re selling low-quality paper. (Later, she demands that Lee Won-su take all of Saimdang’s paintings so that she can sell them and buy nice things for herself.)

Tae-ryong’s mother (who’s now Saimdang’s business partner) warns Saimdang that the woman could create problems for them later on.

Saimdang finally finds out about her husband’s concubine. She walks back home brokenhearted and fails to see Lee Gyeom who’s at a roadside tavern.

Ji-yoon and her father have a heart-to-heart talk about what’s happening in her life.

Han Sang-hyun tries to convince Prof. Min’s assistants to testify against him. Later, he and Hye-jung browse RADE’s website for any answer to their situation.

Joseon times ...

Crown Prince Lee Ho visits Lee Gyeom at night in Bikdang. He asks Lee Gyeom for advice, based on his travels to faraway lands, on how to rule as a future king. Later, the King observes the way the Crown Prince handles the matters raised by the ministers.

Lee Gyeom accompanies Crown Prince Lee Ho (in disguise) around Hanyang. Crown Prince Lee Ho wants Lee Gyeom to show him how people are actually living. They end up in Saimdang’s village where they notice the “No work, no eat” policy.

Saimdang meets Princess Jeongsun at the Palace.

Hyun-ryong begins attending Biikdang’s classes led by a renowned Confucian scholar.

At home, while Saimdang irons Lee Won-su’s uniform, her children begin asking her why they haven’t seen their father for a long time.

Pressured by his concubine, Lee Won-su takes all of Saimdang’s paintings without her knowledge and sells them.

Episode 21: Divided families

Episode 20 recap:

Ji-yoon tells her father: “I didn’t fight for the right cause. I fought only for myself because of my pride and greed. I think I really screwed up my life. I lived with a vain dream.”

Ji-yoon confesses: “After what happened to my husband, I came to my senses. I’m so scared. I don’t have the confidence either. How are they going to get me next time? How am I going to fall again? I’m just so scared now. What do I do? What am I going to do if I’m like this for the rest of my life?”

Ji-yoon’s father reassures her: “Now, it looks like you’re about to get really strong. Fighting without fear isn’t being brave, it’s being reckless. But fighting with fear, that’s real courage.”

Prof. Min remembers how he asked an expert art forger to create the copy of the “Mount Geumgang” painting that he burned at the gallery. He tells his assistants that when he becomes president of Hankuk University, he will present the genuine “Mount Geumgang” painting to the world.

Han Sang-hyun and Hye-jung find in RADE’s website pictures of “Mount Geungang” painting titled “The Hidden Catch.”

After receiving RADE’s pictures, Prof. Min calls and threatens Ji-yoon.

Joseon times ...

Lee Gyeom’s great aunt again pressures him to get married by presenting to him several prospects.

Lee Gyeom paints flowers and insects in Saimdang’s style. When his nephew asks him if he misses Saimdang, he answers with the poem that he has written on the painting: “The farther the distance, the clearer the fragrance becomes.”

At Biikdang, Hyong-ryun discusses with Togye Yi Hwang (a renowned Confucian scholar) the virtues of a noble man. Unknown to them, Ji-gyoon (Hwieumdang’s eldest son) is listening in to the discussion.

Sun (Saimdang’s eldest son) tells her that he doesn’t want to study anymore and that he wants to be a blacksmith. Saimdang reassures him that she will love him whatever he decides to do with his life.

Saimdang realizes that Princess Jeongsun only has mediocre talent in painting.

Using her responsibilities at the paper production office as an excuse, Saimdang begs off from tutoring the Princess.

The Crown Prince is amazed by how popular Lee Gyeom is and how people can easily talk with him. They also see Saimdang facing off with the angry tavern owners.

Later, the Crown Prince is awed by Saimdang’s paintings. He commends Saimdang for what she has done for her community and says that he has learned so much from her. When he comments on what the red-painted canvas is for, Lee Gyeom begins thinking that Saimdang is going through some difficult times.

Pressured by his concubine, Lee Won-su takes all of Saimdang’s paintings. His concubine sells the paintings and later tells him that he should order Saimdang to give them more paintings from now on.

Tae-ryong’s mother barges into the tavern and begins breaking things and threatening Lee Won-su’s concubine.

Alone with Lee Won-su, Saimdang asks him: “Have you thought of breaking up with your concubine?”

Lee Won-su answers: “I can’t and I won’t break up with her. We’re meant to be together.”

Saimdang then asks: “What do you love so much about her?”

Lee Won-su replies: “Everything! She made me feel comfortable. Every time I’m with you, I’d always feel small. It’s like I even had to breathe gracefully. I’ve always felt suffocated and lonely.”

“But when I’m with her, I’m different. I could fart or burp whenever I need to. It doesn’t matter if I felt lazy and didn’t wash before going to bed.

“The damn studies! I’m sick and tired of them, and she didn’t make me do them.

“She made me feel comfortable with everything. You were more like a teacher to me!. I don’t need a wife who’s like a teacher. I needed someone who made me feel comfortable and would accept me as I am.

“Tell me, did you earnestly love me as your husband?”

Saimdang answers: “I heeded you and respected you as my husband.”

Lee Won-su retorts: “I don’t need your respect! I asked you if you’ve ever loved me for the man that I am? Life is short. Now, I’m going to live however I want.”

Saimdang pleads with Lee Won-su not to divorce her and to remain the kind and loving father that he has been to their children.

Lee Gyeom finds out from his nephew that Saimdang’s paintings are being openly sold in the market. He goes there and buys back all of the paintings.

When Saimdang gets back to her studio at the village, she’s surprised to see all of her paintings back in their proper places. She reads Lee Gyeom’s letter to her:

“I’m scared you might get angry for bringing the paintings back to you. You might tell me to stop caring so much. I’m the last person who would want to see you get upset.

“Don’t worry. I’m simply returning them to where they truly belong. If that still doesn’t make you feel better, please consider them as a gift from a good friend. The warmth of spring is in the air. I leave a peony here with you, wishing for a flower to blossom in your heart as well today.”

Saimdang muses: “Thinking about his love and grace, and remembering the old times, I realize he’s always been the same. The paintings have a place to return to. How mysterious, the will of heaven!”

Saimdang begins painting a butterfly on the red canvas where Lee Gyeom has painted a flower.

(Note: The dialogues quoted above are from the Dramacool website video, with some editing.)

Hwieumdang plans to set Min Chi-hyung free by using Princess Jeongsun.

The King tells the ministers that he is appointing Crown Prince Lee Ho as the Regent. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince spends more and more time with Lee Gyeom.

Lee Gyeom meets all of the Biikdang staff for an important announcement on Biikdang’s future.

Saimdang struggles to keep her family together as her children have found out that their father has taken a concubine.

The leaders of the Japanese raiders secretly visit Hwieumdang and ask her to sell to them one of Joseon’s military secrets.

Episode 22: The King’s portrait painter

Episode 21 recap:

Hwieumdang and her men kill all of Princess Jeongsun’s soldiers and attendants. Staging a fake rescue, she gains the princess’s trust. Later, the grateful King pardons Min Chi-hyung despite the objections of Lee Gyeom and the ministers.

Crown Prince Lee Ho (now the Regent) spends more time with Lee Gyeom, going through the markets incognito and observing how people actually live. He learns about firearms and what they can do to strengthen Joseon’s army. He also consults Lee Gyeom about improving Joseon’s battle-tested turtle ship.

But Noble Lady Nam turns the King’s heart against Lee Gyeom. Later, the King slaps and orders the Crown Prince to stay away from Lee Gyeom.

Lee Gyeom tells all of Biikdang’s staff that he is giving away to Biikdang all of his assets as a member of the Royal family. The staff begin wondering if he’s planning to leave Biikdang for good.

Princess Jeongsun asks Hwieumdang to be her tutor in painting. Together, they visit Saimdang’s studio, and without permission, Princess Jeongsun takes several of Saimdang’s paintings.

Saimdang’s children agree to work together to ease some of her burdens and heartaches. Over lunch, Saimdang tells them to patiently wait for their father to come back. Later, she tells Mae-chang that the problem is between husband and wife, and should not affect her and her siblings.

Saimdang sees Lee Won-su being scolded by his superiors in the Office of Translations. Later, she visits the concubine and gives her a letter.

In Willow Village’s school, Saimdang paints her “Watermelon and mice” in front of the students. She teaches them that even the lowly rat has a reason to exist in nature’s scheme of things.

Despite having been pardoned, Min Chi-hyung is ostracized by the ministers and even by the lower officials. In desperation, he agrees to sell to the Japanese raiders the plans for Joseon’s improved and more powerful turtle ship.

At night in the market, Min Chi-hyung chances upon and threatens Saimdang and her daughter. But Lee Gyeom arrives and threatens him back.

The Crown Prince appoints Lee Gyeom as head of the Office of Art, and Mae-chang (Saimdang’s daughter) takes the qualifying exams for new artists.

Saimdang finds Ji-gyoon (Hwieumdang’s eldest son) listening in to Hyun-ryong and the other students of Willow Village’s school.

Min Chi-hyung becomes more violent than ever.

Hwieumdang begins planning how to steal the plans for Joseon’s improved and more powerful turtle ship.

While waiting for his food at the tavern, Lee Won-su happens to read Saimdang’s letter to his concubine.

Lee Gyeom opens the competition that will select the artist who will paint the Royal Portrait. But the Crown Prince’s reforms at the Office of Art create dissension among the artists, make the ministers suspicious, and stir up protests by the scholars.

King Sukjong regains his health and after learning of the dissensions and protests, says that he has been away from the throne for too long.

Episode 23: The paranoid King

Episode 22 recap:

Mae-chang disguises herself as a boy and places first in the qualifying exams for new artists. But the officials find out that she’s a girl and kick her out. When she meets Lee Gyeom and the Crown Prince, she tells them that it’s unfair that she can’t be an artist simply because she’s a girl.

Saimdang finds the bitter Mae-chang alone at the plum blossom trees and tries to comfort her.

Mae-chang: “I was thinking about the world I’m living in. You’ve never told me not to do some things because I’m a girl. But the world is different. No matter how good a painter I am, I can’t become an artist at the Office of Art just because I’m a girl.

“I want to become the most famous artist in Joseon. I want to follow in your footsteps and become the best artist, who’s as good as Ahn Kyun. I was better than all others who took the exams. So why do I have to give up my dream just because I’m a girl? How come only men can have dreams? It’s so unfair!”

Saimdang: “I thought that too when I was your age. Living as a woman in Joseon will often feel suffocating and unfair. But wouldn’t the world become a better place someday?”

Mae-chang: “But what if the night never ends and the world never becomes a better place?”

Saimdang: “Of course, the night may be long. But someday, when you get married and have a child, and when that child has a daughter and her grandchild has a daughter, the sun will rise. We can shine light through their night little by little.”

Mae-chang: “What about me? What can I do? You’re a genius painter, but you’re living like this, always upset because of my father? Are you really happy?”

Unable to answer Mae-chang’s last question, Saimdang simply embraces her.

Ji-gyoon accepts Saimdang’s offer for him to have lunch with her and her children, and he’s surprised by the love and camaraderie among them. Later, at home, he witnesses his father choking his mother.

Lee Won-su cries as he reads Saimdang’s letter to his concubine, which details all the special care that he needs. He begins to realize that all his concubine wants is money.

Using her responsibilities as the painting tutor of Princess Jeongsun, Hwieumdang moves around the Office of Art, thinking of how she can steal the plans for Joseon’s turtle ship.

Saimdang wins the open competition to become the King’s portrait painter. As she shares tea with Lee Gyeom who brought the Royal order to her, Lee Gyeom notices the butterfly painted near the peony on the red canvas.

But immediately after Saimdang wins the competition, the artists, scholars, and ministers begin protesting that it’s against the law for a woman to be appointed to a government office. But the Crown Prince brushes aside the objections and backs up Lee Gyeom and Saimdang.

At the portrait painting session, the King orders everyone to leave except for Saimdang.

King Jungjong: “You must be Shin Myung Hwa’s daughter. I remember your upright father and his audacious daughter.”

Saimdang: “Yes, your majesty.”

King Jungjong: “I do remember you. You were quite a bold girl. I’m sure your boldness has brought you all the way here. How does my face look compared to back then? Tell me.”

Saimdang: “You have many worries written on your face, and your mind doesn’t seem to be at ease, either.”

King Jungjong: “Not at ease? How do you plan on painting me? Will you draw me as the worrisome and troubled King as you see me? Or will you draw my confident and majestic look of the past? Tell me.”

Saimdang: “The job of a portrait painter is not only to draw your face but your heart as well. Thus, I will paint not only your face but your spirit as life-like as possible.”

King Jungjong: “You’ll draw even my spirit as life-like as possible? Could that be possible if there’s grudge left inside of the painter’s heart?”

Saimdang: “If my father is alive today, I am certain that he will be proud of me. He will encourage me to do well. So I plan to give my all to paint the King’s portrait, the face of Joseon.”

King Jungjong: ”If you draw even a wrinkle or a hair on my face incorrectly, you might face punishment. Do you understand that?”

Saimdang: “I’ll do my best.”

Saimdang begins working throughout the night on the portrait. When she neglects to eat, Lee Gyeom brings some food for her. But at that same time, a repentant Lee Won-su is on his way to the Office of Art, also bringing food for Saimdang.

Note: The dialogues quoted above are from the subtitles in the Dramacool website video, with some editing.

The Confucian scholars continue protesting Saimdang’s appointment as the Royal Portrait Painter, while the top ministers step up the pressure against the Crown Prince.

After having a nightmare of angry people attacking him, King Jungjong decides to go around the capital in disguise. Later, he dismisses the Crown Prince from all his duties and orders Lee Gyeom to paint his portrait together with Saimdang.

As Lee Gyeom and Saimdang work on the portrait, King Jungjong mocks their youthful romance; at another instance, he explodes in anger and ends the painting session.

The Japanese pressure Min Chi-hyung about the blueprints for Joseon’s turtle ship. When Hwieumdang reasons out that security has been tightened at the Office of Art since Lee Gyeom took over, Min Chi-hyung says that he must then kill Lee Gyeom.

Deciding that “there can only be one sun under the Joseon sky,” the King plans to destroy Saimdang and Lee Gyeom during the public viewing of the Royal Portrait.

Saimdang and Lee Gyeom are placed under guard and not allowed to leave the Palace. The scene outside the Palace gate becomes tumultuous with poor folks fighting over the free rice from the King, Confucian scholars protesting and calling for Saimdang’s arrest, and the Biikdang staff and Yangyoo people gathering to see the Royal Portrait.

Later, King Jungjong orders his bodyguard to bring Min Chi-hyung to him.

Episode 24: The sun and the moon in Keumkangsan

Episode 23 recap:

Lee Gyeom brings food for Saimdang and teases her that as head of the Office of Art, he’s ordering her to eat.

Saimdang continues her painting session with King Jungjong.

King: “They say that a bird chooses the right tree to build a nest. Confucian scholars across the nation have been outraged because of you and have been flooding the palace with appeals.”

Saimdang: “I’m not interested in politics, so I don’t know what’s going on outside.”

Surprised by Saimdang’s answer, the King describes her calmness as “stillness that sits amidst a blizzard.” The King then asks, “Aren’t you afraid?”

Saimdang answers, “The whirlwind doesn’t blow all morning and a rain shower doesn’t fall throughout the day.”

Noting that Saimdang has just quoted from the “Tao Te Ching” (a book that only scholars read), the King laughs and says that it’s no wonder Lee Gyeom fell in love with her.

Saimdang: “I just believe that it’s all fate.”

King: “Fate?”

Saimdang: “Once I accepted it as fate, I wasn’t afraid of anything and felt like I could do anything. I’m going to paint your portrait no matter what!”

King: “Where’s that bravery coming from?”

Saimdang: “It isn’t bravery; it’s maternal instinct. I wanted to give hope to my daughter who wants to be a member of the Office of Art.”

King: “Then tell me, from a mother’s perspective, since a king should take care of his people like their mother: what would you like fix the most in Joseon right now?”

Saimdang: “I’d like Joseon to be a country where people can have dreams. A dream that life will get better. A dream that things can get better if you work hard.

“The reason we’re not afraid of the dark at night is because we believe that the dawn will break and the sun will come up if we just wait. A life where you can’t have dreams just because you’re a woman or a concubine’s child or because you’re not from the noble class is like living your life walking along a dark road with a bag over your head. Please create a country where people can have dreams!”

King Jungjong becomes more paranoid when he hears the lower-ranking officials praising the Crown Prince’s reforms and Lee Gyeom as his main pillar. His paranoia deepens when he hears people at the Yangyoo Paper Production Office praising Saimdang for bringing them hope that the King could not.

In a meeting with the Japanese that nearly turns bloody, Min Chi-hyung again promises to deliver to them the blueprints for Joseon’s turtle ship. Later, he pressures Hwieumdang to bribe officials at the Office of Art or do whatever it takes to get the blueprint. When Hwieumdang objects to his plan to kill Lee Gyeom, Min Chi-hyung asks her if she’s still in love with Lee Gyeom.

The top ministers return to the meetings when the King dismisses the Crown Prince from all his responsibilities. He then orders Lee Gyeom to be the co-painter of the Royal Portrait. When Lee Gyeom hesitates, the King shouts at him, saying that it’s a Royal order. The King also says, “The two of you even discussed marriage at one time. So I’m sure you will work very well together. Work together to create a masterpiece that will make history.”

Later, while watching Saimdang and Lee Gyeom work together, the King asks, “The two who know each other very well are working together in the same place. How does it feel? Does it feel nice?”

Fearing the moral implications of what the King said, Saimdang says no, while Lee Gyeom says that their early romance is now just an old memory they can laugh about and that he has no ulterior motive.

The King then answers with a veiled warning, “Whether you have an ulterior motive or not, the time you have painting my portrait may be the last time you two can be together.”

When the King mentions that people at Yangyoo treat Saimdang with great respect and that she’s like a king in that place, Lee Gyeon defends her by saying that the King may have jumped to a conclusion. The King explodes in anger and ends the painting session.

Later, Saimdang tells Lee Gyeom that she doesn’t know what road these things will lead to, but she will give her best so that she won’t be embarrassed as an artist. When Lee Gyeom mentions that he thought they would be painting together at a much better place that this place, Saimdang says, “But I’m happy here. I’m thankful we could be together like this.”

Hwieumdang is finally able to steal the blueprints for the turtle ship. As she’s about to leave the Office of Art, she overhears from some of the artists that Saimdang and Lee Gyeom are painting together. She sees them working together, and for a brief moment, she imagines herself working with Lee Gyeom. She wonders, “They look so beautiful together. What have I been doing with my life?” She then walks away, crying.

The King plans with the ministers how to destroy Saimdang and Lee Gyeom during the public unveiling of the Royal Portrait. He wants to use the Confucian scholars to turn public sentiment against them both: “Before their admirers and the Yangyoo people, I will destroy them both at once so that they can never think of disrespecting me.”

Saimdang and Lee Gyeom are placed under guard and not allowed to leave the Palace.

The scenes outside the Palace gate become tumultuous with poor folks fighting over the free rice from the King, Confucian scholars protesting and calling for Saimdang’s arrest, and the Biikdang staff and Yangyoo people gathering to see the Royal Portrait. As the portrait is paraded outside the Palace gate, the Confucian scholars begin shouting against the painting’s artistic quality. But the scholars are stunned into silence when people begin praising the painting as being alive and radiant. The people begin singing and dancing and later on bowing down and praising the King.

Saimdang returns home triumphantly to Yangyoo. During the dancing and eating, she sees Hwieumdang dragging her son Ji-gyoon away. When Hwieumdang asks Ji-gyoon why he’s there, he says, “Our family doesn’t have a pleasant meal together. Are we even a family?”

After Ji-gyoon walks away, Hwieumdang begins crying. Saimdang takes her hand and says, “Our children are much more mature than us. Let’s forget about everything else, and let’s just live for our children!”

The King orders Min Chi-hyung to kill Saimdang and Lee Gyeom. Conniving with the Japanese, Min Chi-hyung takes Saimdang hostage and uses her as bait to lure Lee Gyeom. While Lee Gyeom fights them off, Hwieumdang goes to where Saimdang is being held and kills the Japanese guarding her.

Note: The dialogues quoted above are from the subtitles of the Dramacool website video, with some editing.

After rescuing Saimdang from her Japanese captors, Hwieumdang kneels before Saimdang and pleads for her sons. Meanwhile, the royal guards sent by the Crown Prince reach Lee Gyeom and engage the Japanese in a deadly fight.

Lee Gyeom confronts King Jungjong as to why he wants to kill him and Saimdang. Later, King Jungjong goes on a rampage, shutting down Biikdang and ransacking Yangyoo Paper Production Office.

Saimdang finds out that Lee Gyeom is being hunted down for treason and that nobody knows where he is.

As Saimdang goes home to Sujinbang, she sees her angry and dejected children out in the courtyard — Lee Won-su has brought his concubine to their home.

Episode 25: Ji-yoon and RADE

Episode 24 recap:

As she and Min Chi-hyung are sure to be branded as traitors for collaborating with the Japanese, Hwieumdang begs Saimdang to take care of her children.

Before Min Chi-hyung dies, he tells Lee Gyeom that the King ordered him to kill him and Saimdang.

Saimdang takes Ji-gyoon and his brother to safety. Later, she gathers the drifters and gives them lands that she bought for them.

Lee Gyeom confronts King Jungjong.

King: “Did you come here to kill me, or did you come here to die?”

Lee Gyeom: “I didn’t come here expecting to survive. Why did you do that? Why did you want to kill me and Saimdang?”

King: “Did you not really know?”

Lee Gyeom: “You said I was like your one and only brother and an important friend. You said there’s no one in the Palace you can talk to.”

King: “Well, we did have those times.”

Lee Gyeom: “Then why? Why?”

King: “Because you have triggered the King’s fury.”

Lee Gyeom: “I wasn’t trying to take the throne or try to get the soldiers to revolt. How could you want to try to kill a defenseless woman?”

King: “I warned you not to get involved in politics. This was brought about by your rash ideals!”

Lee Gyeom: “Rash ideals? Why have you stopped listening? Can you not hear the court or the cries of your people?”

King: “Don’t you know that my late brother withstood the humiliation and fear over and over again in order to protect his throne? For 40 whole years! Do you know why? The King can also be brought down by his subjects and be killed. I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes.”

Lee Gyeom: “Dethronement ... How long are you going to hide in the shadows of dethronement?”

King (drawing his sword): “How dare you! This is all your fault! I was just trying to protect Joseon’s foundations, the King’s dignity.”

Lee Gyeom grabs the King’s sword with his bare hand and turns it against the King. But the King’s guards and the Crown Prince arrive. The Crown Prince begs on his knees for the King to spare Lee Gyeom’s life.

Later, the ministers pressure the King to arrest Lee Gyeom for treason. Soldiers shut down Biikdang and drag all the staff out into the street. They also ransack Yangyoo Paper Production Office and seize its assets. But the drifters have already left.

Lee Won-su and his concubine have found Ahn Kyun’s “Mount Geumgang” painting and laid it out on the bedroom floor. Saimdang takes the painting and, outside the house, breaks down crying in front of her children. When the children start screaming in hate and anger at him, Lee Won-su couldn’t care less.

Mae-chang urges Saimdang to leave and go to Keumkangsan just as she had always wanted in her younger years. Sun, on the other hand, promises to take care of his siblings while she’s gone.

At the hideout of the bandits, Lee Gyeom finds out from his nephew that Saimdang has gone up to Keumkangsan.

Saimdang reaches Keumkangsan and starts to paint the mountain, as she had always wanted to do. Just as she has almost finished the painting, she sees Lee Gyeom there.

Lee Gyeom pleads with Saimdang to spend three days with him so that they can paint the mountain together, just as he had promised more than 20 years ago.

While Lee Gyeom is carving his half of the Biikjo seal, it starts to rain. He and Saimdang use the painting to cover themselves. Later, after the rain stops, Saimdang notices the early moon.

Saimdang: “The moon is about to wake up from its nap.”

Lee Gyeom: “The moon’s nap ... What an interesting expression!”

Saimdang: “The sun resents the moon that sleeps all day and wakes up later at night. The sun doesn’t know how hard it is for the moon to keep the darkness away alone at night. The sun doesn’t know that the moon is keeping its side.”

Rather than running away with Lee Gyeom, Saimdang decides to go back to her children. She writes a farewell note for Lee Gyeom. She also burns Ahn Kyun’s “Mount Geumgang” painting, but before the painting is completely burned up, Lee Gyeom arrives and takes what’s left of the painting out of the fire.

In her letter, Saimdang tells Lee Gyeom:

“I thought about leaving everything behind and going away with you. But if I do that, my children will be condemned to live in shame for the rest of their lives. I don’t think I can abandon my children and live my life without them, missing them everyday.

“I choose to live as a mother and will not regret it. I wonder if we’ll be able to be together in our next lives. I love you with all my heart!”

On their painting of Keumkangsan, Saimdang has drawn the early moon and a house with a man and a woman in it.

Note: The dialogues quoted above are from the subtitles in the Dramacool website video, with some editing.

Ji-yoon tries to cope with her uncommunicative and emotionally-distant son Eun-soo. She also tries to patch things up with her mother-in-law.

Han Sang-hyun and Hye-jung seek the help of the Antique Arts Association’s president in authenticating Saimdang’s diary.

Prof. Min gets the promotion that he has wanted for so long. Feeling the pressure from RADE, he orders his assistants to dig up any kind of dirt against Ji-yoon, Han Sang-hyun, and Hye-jung.

Eun-soo meets the mysterious photographer, who helps him finish his painting. Later, Ji-yoon finds out that Eun-soo’s painting has been posted in RADE’s website.

Ji-yoon gets a postcard from RADE; written on it are the words “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” She wonders why RADE gave her the postcard. She also begins having visions of Saimdang, Lee Gyeom, and events in their lives.

Later, RADE emails Ji-yoon asking her for a face-to-face meeting.

Episode 26: Ji-yoon and Saimdang

Episode 25 recap:

Ji-yoon breaks the barrier between her and her son Eun-soo by admitting that she made mistakes by not telling his father that she loved him and missed him before he died. Later, Ji-yoon also reconciles with her mother-in-law.

Ji-yoon gets a postcard from the mysterious photographer; the postcard features the “Man in Korean Costume” painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). She begins researching that painting and another painting titled “The Miracles of St. Francis Xavier.” She finds out that the model for the painting had come to Italy after a long overseas voyage.

Prof. Min becomes the president of Hankuk University. When he continues to be pressured by RADE, he retaliates by accusing Ji-yoon and Han Sang-hyun of having plagiarized their theses. He also gets Hye-jung fired from her job.

The president of the Antique Arts Association accepts a 100 million won bribe from President Min, and he tells Han Sang-hyun and Hye-jung that Saimdang’s diary is a forgery.

Ji-yoon decides to go back to Seoul and continue fighting for the real “Mount Geumgang” painting. She confronts President Min and tells him that he cannot take her honor even though he may take all her degrees.

Ji-yoon finds out that RADE is not an individual but a worldwide group investigating art forgeries. The Korean member of RADE tells her that they have been investigating the “Mount Geumgang” painting.

Ji-yoon finds out what RADE is all about and how it’s investigating the “Mount Geumgang” painting. She also asks why her son’s painting was published in the RADE website.

Prof. Min’s assistant (the one with glasses) steals the genuine “Mount Geumgang” painting and gives it back to Ji-yoon. She then informs the Korean guy from RADE about the painting, and they plan their next moves against Prof. Min.

After Hye-jung reminds her of the John Donne poem hidden inside Saimdang’s diary, Ji-yoon copies the poem on a piece of paper. Later as she, Hye-jung, and Han Sang-hyun stare at the portrait of the Joseon beauty, the goons sent by Prof. Min rush into the club and attack them.

Joseon times ...

Saimdang comes home to her children, and King Jungjong finds out about it. Later, the Crown Prince reaches out to Saimdang.

The drifters debate among themselves whether to go back home to their respective villages or to go back to Yangyoo Paper Production Office for Saimdang.

Lee Gyeom goes back to Biikdang, carrying with him the painting that he did with Saimdang. After meeting his great aunt and his nephew, he decides to surrender in order to protect Saimdang.

Episode 27: Saving Lee Gyeom

Episode 26 recap:

Ji-yoon and the Korean guy from RADE plan to entrap Prof. Min using the “Mount Geumgang” painting as bait. Han Sang-hyun promptly puts up CCTV cameras in their room at the club.

Ji-yoon stares at the painting of the Joseon beauty and begins having visions.

Joseon times ...

As soon as Saimdang comes back home, the King orders her house arrest on the pretext that she engaged in illegal activities at the Yangyoo Paper Production Office.

After writing a letter for Saimdang, Lee Gyeom buries their painting near a tree in inside Biikdang. In his letter, he tells Saimdang: “Life is like a flower that blooms only once. The heaven and earth are like one big tree. It will fall off the tree once it blooms. There’s no reason to be sad or scared. It was your choice to choose life. And accepting death is my choice. Coming into this world is to have life. And returning to where we came from is death. There’s no reason to cry over fallen leaves. This is my choice to protect you.”

Lee Gyeom and his great aunt reconcile after decades of misunderstandings. She embraces Lee Gyeom tearfully and says that she will take upon herself his punishment, whether it’s exile or even death.

Meeting his nephew later, Lee Gyeom tells him to protect Saimdang. He then surrenders to the authorities.

The Crown Prince visits Saimdang and tells her all that have happened between Lee Gyeom and the King.

When Saimdang’s house arrest is lifted, Lee Won-su runs with his concubine, without caring for what happens next to Saimdang and her children.

Inside the prison, Lee Gyeom and the King can hear Saimdang’s pleas to be allowed to see Lee Gyeom. Lee Gyeom confesses to everything and pleads with the King not to harm Saimdang. The King replies that he will not do anything to Saimdang but that she will live her whole life in pain knowing that she has caused Lee Gyeom’s death.

The King refuses to allow Saimdang to see Lee Gyeom; he also tells her that Lee Gyeom will be exiled to Jeju and later executed by poisoning.

Dejected, Saimdang goes back to Yangyoo Paper Production Office where she finds that all of the drifters have come back. She begins writing a diary narrating everything that has happened between her and Lee Gyeom for the last 20 years or more.

Modern times ...

After Hye-jung reminds her of the John Donne poem hidden inside Saimdang’s diary, Ji-yoon copies the poem on a piece of paper. She’s shocked to see that her handwriting and the handwriting on the diary’s John Donne poem are exactly the same.

Goons sent by Prof. Min attack the club and beat up Han Sang-hyun as they search for the “Mount Geumgang” painting. Ji-yoon grabs the painting and rushes out of the room. The goons chase her up to the rooftop where she falls from off the roof and on to the ground below.

In a vision, Ji-yoon sees Saimdang. Seeing the postcard with the “Man in Korean Costume” painting by Rubens, Saimdang exclaims that it’s Lee Gyeom. Piecing the puzzle together, Ji-yoon assures Saimdang that Lee Gyeom is alive in Italy but that she must rescue him from the exile and death by poisoning that the King has ordered.

Ji-yoon assures Saimdang that she can rescue Lee Gyeom.

Hye-jung and Han Sang-hyun rush Ji-yoon to the hospital. Later, two mysterious men visit Ji-yoon.

Joseon times ...

Saimdang rallies the drifters and the bandits to rescue Lee Gyeom. She also tries to get help from Lord So and the Crown Prince.

But the King secretly orders his bodyguard to change the route for Lee Gyeom’s exile and to kill him along the way.

Episode 28 (Finale): A gift of fate

Episode 27 recap:

Ji-yoon tells Saimdang that if she rescues Lee Gyeom, he will live on in Italy and become a famous painter.

Saimdang: “I’m only a woman. How can I rescue Lee Gyeom?”

Ji-yoon: “You can do it. You are a greater woman than you realize. You need to believe in yourself. If you can get Lee Gyeom to Italy, he will be remembered for hundreds of years as a mysterious artist from the East.”

Saimdang: “It sounds so impossible. He’s in prison right now. Can I really save him?”

Ji-yoon gives Saimdang the dianthus bracelet and tells her: “You must gather all of your strength. You prayed desperately for help to save Lee Gyeom. That prayer helped us to meet like this. You must remember. Believe in yourself. You can do it.”

Ji-yoon’s husband turns up alive and reunites with his family. A mystery man (probably the Korean guy from RADE) pays for all of Ji-yoon’s hospital bills.

Joseon times ...

Saimdang gives the last copy of the King’s poem to the Crown Prince. Later, in front of the King’s bodyguard, the Crown Prince burns up the poem.

The bandits and the drifters catch up with the soldiers transporting Lee Gyeom. To everyone’s surprise, the King’s bodyguard releases Lee Gyeom. Later, the bodyguard kills himself.

The other soldiers report that Lee Gyeom’s cart fell of the cliff, and that the King’s bodyguard died with Lee Gyeom.

When Lee Gyeom sees Saimdang at the river, he tries again to get Saimdang to run away with him. But Saimdang shakes her head and says: “You must go. Please go out to the bigger world and live freely out there.”

Lee Gyeom then takes the Biikjo seal that he carved at Keumkangsan and places it around Saimdang’s neck. He says: “I planned to make this seal for you earlier. But it took me 20 years.” As Saimdang looks and touches the seal, she replies: “Finally, the seals are complete.”

Lee Gyeom: “Because I met you, I have been very happy.”

Saimdang: “From now on, you must be even happier.”

In the boat, Lee Gyeom opens the bag that Saimdang gave him and sees clothes, a seed pouch, a diary, and a letter. In her letter, Saimdang says: “Thinking back, I never made you any clothes. While praying for your safety, I made something for you. No matter where you are, I will feel everything you are feeling. I will see everything you are seeing. Being physically separated will not mean we are truly separated. I’m certain of this. Forever ...”

After a long, arduous journey over land and sea, Lee Gyeom reaches Italy where he lives a peaceful and productive life.

Lee Gyeom becomes part of a manor where he continues to paint. He remembers Saimdang:

“I wake up in this foreign land. I have dreamed of you again. Even though you are not here, my life is bearable. No matter where I am, you said you would always be there for me.

“These beautiful sights that lie before me, I believe you’re seeing them too. There are beautiful flowers blooming here that remind me of you. There are gentle breezes that remind me of your touch. When I stay still and listen to that breeze, I think I can hear your voice. I’ve realized it once arrived here. By my side and inside my heart, you’re the only one there. You’re the reason I walk the earth, and you are my dream.

As Lee Gyeom carves out in marble a house based on what Saimdang drew on their Keumkangsan painting, he remembers all their happy days and conversations: “Our time passed by like a sweet dream. I still haven’t woken up. Since I must remain here at Siesta Di Luna, our dream will be remembered forever.”

Back in Joseon, Saimdang and the drifters have rebuilt Yangyoo Paper Production Office and have become prosperous again. Some of Biikdang’s staff help out in educating and training the drifters and their families.

At home remembering Lee Gyeom, Saimdang collapses, clutching her heart.

Note: The dialogues quoted above are from the subtitles in the Dramacool website video.

Ji-yoon regains consciousness and reunites with her husband.

After visiting Ji-yoon at the hospital, the director of Seon Gallery calls for a press conference.

Later, Ji-yoon gets an invitation to visit “Siesta Di Luna” in Tuscany, Italy.

Episode 28 recap:

Director Sun confesses before members of the media that the “Mount Geumgang” painting displayed in her gallery is fake. Her husband and Prof. Min are later arrested by the police.

Ji-yoon regains consciousness and finds out that her husband is alive.

Ji-yoon turns over the genuine “Mount Geumgang” painting and Saimdang’s diary to the Cultural Center, but she decides to keep for herself the “Portrait of the Joseon Beauty”.

In Joseon time ...

Saimdang suffers from chest pains but hides them from her family.

Hyun-ryong and Ji-gyoon both pass the state exams.

Hwieumdang, now working at an isolated tavern, is reunited with her children.

Saimdang entrusts her children to Lee Won-su.

At the beach, Saimdang and Mae-chang have a final heart-to-heart talk. Saimdang gives her the flower bracelet that Ji-yoon gave her. Saimdang tells Mae-chang that the bracelet is a gift of fate: “There are many connections of fates in the world. Some we are aware of, and some we aren’t. This is my gift for you to express my gratitude that you were fated to be my daughter.

Woo gives Saimdang the “China pink flower” that’s her favorite; she then asks her children, especially Hyun-ryong, to reconcile with their father.

In Italy, as Lee Gyeom mourns for Saimdang, he imagines that they’re together and happily wandering around Siesta Di Luna. He imagines Saimdang telling him: “This place is beautiful under the languid sun, and the breeze scatters the fragrance of grass. All my prayers unto the breeze will touch your heart with my longing for you. Please live freely in the bigger world. Please be happy.”

Modern times ...

Ji-yoon and her family visit Saimdang’s shrine; she has now become part of RADE investigating art forgeries.

The painting that Saimdang and Lee Gyeom painted together in Keumkangsan is found at a construction site.

As Ji-yoon walks around the halls and premises of Siesta Di Luna, she witnesses the spirits of Saimdang and Lee Gyeom finally coming together.

Backgrounders on historical Shin Saimdang and other information

(Jump to Is “Lee Gyeom” a fictional or historical character?; Saimdang’s obsession with Mount Geumgang; Shin Saimdang’s style of painting called “Chochungdo”; Historical paintings depicted in “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”; Shin Saimdang and her children: legacy of excellence in arts; “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” and the China pinks theme; Significance of butterflies in Joseon culture; Traditional Korean paper making videos; “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” by John Donne; or to “Arirang” Korean folk song)

From Wikipedia: Shin Saimdang (October 29, 1504 – May 17, 1551) was a Korean artist, writer, calligraphist, and poet. She was the mother of the Korean Confucian scholar Yi I. Often held up as a model of Confucian ideals, her respectful nickname was Eojin Eomeoni (“Wise Mother”). Her real name was Inseon. Her pen names were Saimdang, Inimdang and Imsajae.

Shin Saimdang was born and raised in Gangneung at the home of her maternal grandparents. Her father, Shin Myeonggwa was a government official but did not actively join politics. Her mother was Lady Yi, the daughter of Yi Saon. Shin had four younger sisters. Her maternal grandfather taught her as he would have a grandson.

Being raised in that atmosphere, Shin Saimdang received an education that was not common for women of that era. Besides literature and poetry, she was adept at calligraphy, embroidery, and painting.

Because she was raised in a household that had no sons, she spent much time at her parents’ home. At the age of 19, she married Commander Yi Wonsu and with the consent of her husband she continued to spend time at the home of her parents. She accompanied her husband to his official posts in Seoul and in rural towns and birth to Yi I in Gangneung. However, Shin Saimdang died suddenly after moving to the Pyongan region at the age of 48.

Saimdang was able to cultivate her talents despite the rigid Confucian society thanks to an unconventional household and an understanding husband. Having no brothers, she received an education that would have been bequeathed only to a son, and this background greatly influenced the way she educated her children.

Shin Saimdang is the first woman to appear on a South Korean banknote, the 50,000 won note, first issued in June 2009. Feminist critics, however, have criticized this selection as reinforcing sexist stereotypes about women’s roles.

Saimdang’s obsession with Mount Geumgang (Keumkangsan)

In history, Shin Saimdang climbed up Mount Geumgang after her husband Lee Won-su took in a concubine. During Saimdang’s time, “yangban” women could be punished with 100 lashes for going to the mountains.

In Ep. 2 (15:15 mark), Saimdang climbs over a wall of the house where Anh Gyun’s “Mount Guemgang” painting is being kept.

In Ep. 2 (20:35 mark), Saimdang tells her father that she wants to go to Keumkangsan (Mount Geumgang) and complains that it’s unfair that a girl like her isn’t allowed to go to the mountain.

In Ep. 3 (5:19 mark), Saimdang tells Lee Gyeom, “I’ll go to Keumkangsan no matter what. I want to climb the mountain and see its beauty before I die.”

In Ep. 3 (13:13 mark), Saimdang complains to the man whom she doesn’t recognize is the King that her painting of Mount Geumgang has no soul because she hasn’t actually seen the mountain.

So, why did the historical and fictional Saimdang seem to be obsessed with going to Keumkangsan?

1. “Koreans have perceived Geumgansan as their muse since well before the Middle Ages. Practically every poet and artist who lived during the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) made a pilgrimage to Mt. Geumgangsan.” (From Wikipedia article citing “100 Cultural Symbols of Korea” by Yoo Myeonng-jong, 2008)

2. “Kumgang-san has long been a place that stirred the imaginations of many famous Korean artists, writers, and wanderers. During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), Kumgang-san was seen as the ideal Buddhist world, which influenced Indian monk Ji Jong Sunim to cultivate his mind there. In the Joseon Dynasty, Kumgang-san received acclaim by numerous Kings, writers, artists, and scholars. One of those writers was Kim Yang Su (1820-1882) who wrote travelogues on Kumgang-san. He strongly believed that Kumgang-san was more beautiful than any mountain in China.” (From “Diamond Mountains of North Korea” by Roger Shepherd, One Korea Photography)

Wikipedia further describes Mount Geumgang:

“Mount Geumgang is a 5,374 feet-high mountain located in Kangwon-do, North Korea and is about 31 miles from the South Korean city of Sokcho in Gangwon-do.”

“The mountain consists almost entirely of granite and diorite, weathered over centuries into a wide variety of shapes, including over 12,000 picturesque stone formations, ravines, cliffs, stone pillars, and peaks.”

“It was in 1894 the British writer Isabella Bird Bishop referred to it in her travelogue as Diamond Mountain.”

In Ep. 13, Lee Gyeom tells the King that the painting on the fan depicts Mount Geumgang the way it looks during autumn. He uses the term “Phung'aksan” (hill of colored leaves or great mountain of colored leaves), which is used to call Mount Geumgang during autumn.

Is “Lee Gyeom” a fictional or historical character?

Lee Gyeom is a fictional character, but his paintings in Ep. 6 (“Mother Dog and Puppies”) and in Ep. 13 (“Falcon on a Perch”) are historical. Both paintings were done by renowned Joseon artist Yi Am (1507–1566.) Yi Am was the grandson of the 4th son of Sejong the Great.

“Mother Dog and Puppies” is on display at the National Museum of Korea, Seoul, while “Falcon on a Perch” is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, USA.

Some historical paintings depicted in “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”

Besides the “Mother Dog and Puppies” and the “Falcon on a Perch” by Yi Am, several other historical paintings (by Shin Saimdang, Shin Yun Bok, Kim Hong Do, etc.) are depicted in this drama. Among them are:

Garden Scene with Watermelons, Pinks, Butterflies and Mice” by Shin Saimdang
(Harvard University Art Museums, 1994) featured in Episode 21

“White Cranes” by Shin Saimdang, featured in Episode 22 when
Saimdang joined the contest to select the Royal Portrait Painter.

“Yellow Cat Romps With Butterfly” by Kim Hong-do (1745-1806), featured
in Episode 22 when Saimdang’s daughter Mae-chang, in disguise, enters
the qualifying exam for new artists for the Dohwaseo (Office of Art).
From Finding the meaning in whimsical traditional art: “Paintings of
this depiction are usually painted as a birthday gift to wish the
recipient a long and healthy life. In ancient Korea, cats represented
the age of 70 while butterflies stood for the age of 80.”

In Ep. 25 (SBS version, beginning at 16:40 mark), Ji-yoon receives from RADE
a postcard featuring the painting “Man in Korean Costume” by Peter Paul Rubens
1577 - 1640). In Ep. 26 (SBS version, 55:21 mark), Saimdang sees the postcard
and exclaims that it’s Lee Gyeom.


1. This drama turns on the character Ji-yoon’s investigation of the “Mount Geumgang” painting (Keumkangsando) allegedly done by famous Joseon artist An Gyeon. This painting is fictional since the only surviving painting by An Gyeon (Ahn Kyun) is “Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land”. This painting, dated 1447, is now displayed at the Tenri Central Library in Tenri University, Nara, Japan.

First picture below is this drama’s fictional “Mount Geumgang” painting, while the second picture below is the historical “Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land”.

2. “The Portrait of a Joseon Beauty” which the character Lee Gyeom painted in Siesta Di Luna (Episode 1) is also fictional. Some people, however, have observed that this painting reminds them of “A Beauty” by Shin Yun-bok (1758-unknown), one of the most famous painters of the Joseon Dynasty.

3. The Joseon artists Kim Hong-do and Shin Yun-bok are portrayed in the 2008 drama “Painter of the Wind” (with the revisionist view that Shin Yun-bok was actually a woman).

Shin Saimdang’s style of painting called “Chochungdo”

Two videos on Shin Saimdang as an artist. First video is cute, showing Saimdang as a child just learning how to paint and admiring An Gyeon. Second video (from 9:44 mark up to 13:22) explains Saimdang’s style of painting called “Chochungdo.”

Saimdang and her children: a legacy of excellence in arts (New World Encyclopedia)

“Saimdang’s artistic legacy extended for 3 generations. Her first daughter, Maech’ang, was known for her paintings of bamboo and plum in ink. Her youngest son, Oksan Yi Wu (1542-1609), was a talented musician, poet, calligrapher, and painter who specialized in painting the four gentlemen (bamboo, plum, orchid, and chrysanthemum), and grapes in ink.”

Traditional Korean paper making

Arirang Prime - Hanji paper is a work of art in itself

Korean Traditional Paper Hanji

“Saimdang, Light’s Diary” and the China pinks theme

China pinks (Dianthus chinensis) are “biennials or short-lived perennials with pink to lilac flowers with fringed petals and a purple eye.”

Episode 1: The shoes of the woman in “Portrait of a Joseon Beauty” is designed with China pinks.

Episode 2: Saimdang wears a China pinks hair ornament when she wanted to see Ah Kyun’s painting and when she met Lee In-gyeom later.

Episode 2: During class with her father, Saimdang recites the poem “Dianthus” by Goryeo poet Jeung Seung-myung.

Episode 2: While Ji-yoon is in a trance, Saimdang’s son Woo gives her China pinks.

Episode 2: At the hospital, Ji-yoon drops the China pinks.

Episode 3: The roof beams in the shrine of the Buddhist goddess uses China pinks in their design.

Episode 7: Seok Soon recites a poem about the dianthus flower that impresses Min Chi-hyung.

Episode 20: Ji-yoon’s son gives her a bracelet with China pinks design.

Episode 27: Ji-yoon gives her China pinks bracelet to Saimdang.

Episode 28 (Finale): Saimdang gives the China pinks bracelet to her daughter Mae-chang.

Episode 28 (Finale): Saimdang’s son Woo gives her the China pinks that he found on the beach.

Episode 28 (Finale): Saimdang waves goodbye to her family with the China pinks.

Episode 28 (Finale): Ji-yoon finds China pinks in Siesta Di Luna’s courtyard.

Episode 28 (Finale): Ji-yoon wears a hair band with a China pinks design.

Significance of butterflies in Joseon culture

The opening credits in “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” show a painting of three butterflies flitting near some flowers. In Episode 2, a butterfly appears when Ji-yoon and her family are moving to their new home. The butterfly reappears when the drama transitions from past to present, as in the 47:08 mark of Episode 4.

Butterflies have been used in numerous Korean dramas:

1. The butterfly used in the time skip in “Tree With Deep Roots” (Episode 4 starting at 9:12 mark).

2. The butterfly in “The Moon That Embraces The Sun” (Episodes 1 and 7).

3. Remember the butterfly key chain of Lady Jang in “Dong Yi”? Dong Yi searched for the butterfly key chain from Episode 5 to 14.

4. If I remember correctly, the ornate hair pin that Bang-won gave Boon-yi in Episode 46 of “Six Flying Dragons” was in the shape of a butterfly.

Paintings of butterflies and flowers
by historical Shin Saimdang
A Korea Foundation newsletter article titled “Enduring Symbols of Korea’s Traditional Culture” (September 2010) describes the significance of butterflies in Joseon culture:

“In regard to Korea’s traditional culture and folk art, flowers and butterflies have been among the most popular subjects. Beautiful flowers with butterflies flitting about have long been associated with prosperity and a state of contentment, in addition to symbolizing the harmony between husband and wife and the family unit. Accordingly, flowers and butterflies are often depicted in paintings and everyday articles. Examples include folk paintings and everyday items like key charms decorated with colorful floral embroidery, butterfly-shaped locks, jewelry boxes with butterfly decorations, funeral biers decorated with floral engravings, and ornamental hairpins carved with floral and butterfly patterns.”

“The butterfly is another symbol of joy, pleasure, and a life of prosperity. ”

From The Talking Cupboard in “Joseon’s Court Attire: Kdrama Style (Part 1)”:

“Various patterns like peonies and lotuses along with waives, rocks, phoenixes and butterflies which symbolize long life and good luck are embroidered on the hwarot.”

“Hwarot is the lavish crimson robe with embroidered patterns on it. It is usually worn by princesses when they are going to get married. Underneath the robe, a yellow samhuijan jeogori (jacket) with crimson/blue daran chima (skirt with gold patterns) are worn by the princess.”

Hampyeong Butterfly Festival (modern-day Korea)

From Wikipedia:

“Hampyeong is famous for its annual butterfly festival which is the only one of its kind in South Korea. The county officially has upbrought tens of thousands of butterflies and other facilities like greenhouses for insects for the festival. Annually Hampyeong attracts more than 1 million people which, considering its size and scale is quite a large number.”

From Visit Korea:

“The Hampyeong Butterfly Festival offers visitors the opportunity to get a closer look at ecology, in particular the region’s butterflies. During the festival period, the whole town of Hampyeong is a 'Happy and bountiful world with butterfly,' covered with various hands-on program, exhibitions and performances themed on butterflies, flowers and insects.”


“During the festival, about 120,000 butterflies will be released over flower gardens spread across an area of one million square meters.”

“A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” by John Donne

In Ep. 7 SBS version (beginning at the 21:29 mark), Hye-jung discovers a poem hidden in Saimdang’s diary; Ji-yoon later identifies it as her favorite poem “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” by John Donne (23:35 mark). Ji-yoon and Hye-jung are both confused as to why the poem is in the diary because John Donne lived some 300 years after Saimdang.

In Ep. 26 SBS version (beginning at the 43:42 mark), Ji-yoon finally realizes that she was the one who wrote Donne’s poem hidden in Saimdang’s diary. And in Ep. 27 (SBS version, beginning at 54:21 mark), she gives the poem to Saimdang.

“Arirang” Korean folk song

“Arirang” is often considered as the unofficial national anthem of Korea. It has numerous versions in terms of “lyrics, the timing when the refrain is sung, the nature of the refrain, the overall melody, and so on.” (Wikipedia) “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” uses “Arirang” in at least two episodes: during the memorial service for old man Pal Bong in Ep. 17 (SBS version, starting at 4:09 mark) and when Saimdang bids farewell to the drifters in Ep. 24 (SBS version, starting at 14:07 mark).

Meaning Behind the Song Arirang

The Vienna Boys Choir - Arirang

(Cheong Chun Arirang) Korean Folk Song by Song So-Hee

Hew York Philharmonic performs “Arirang” in North Korea

“Arirang” flash mob orchestra in Harvard Square, Boston, USA

Related dramas: “Painter of the Wind” and “Yi San, Wind in the Palace”

“Saimdang, Light’s Diary” is a fictionalized account of Shin Saimdang, a historical figure considered as Joseon’s greatest female painter. Other Korean historical dramas that have female lead characters who are painters are “Painter of the Wind” and “Yi San, Wind in the Palace.”

“Painter of the Wind” (read the Wikipedia article or watch the videos on Dramacool)

“Shin Yoon Bok is a talented painter who disguises herself as a boy to search for her father's murderer and meets a master painter who guides her into being a great painter. Kim Hong Do is the man who teaches Yoon Bok how to paint, and they develop a strong friendship of mentor and disciple.” (From Dramacool description)

“Yi San, Wind in the Palace” (read the Wikipedia article or watch the videos on Dramacool). The female lead character Sung Song-yeon is a “damo” (slave) at the Bureau of Paintings (“Dohwaseo”) who later on becomes a Royal Artist.

Some interesting scenes from “Yi San”:

Episode 7: The Qing ambassador demands that Song-yeon must sleep with him if she cannot demonstrate her talent in painting.

Episode 20 (starting at 53:30 mark): Song-yeon joins the competition among the Royal Artists; if she lands in the top five, she will be allowed to continue painting for the Bureau. But a corrupt official messes up Song-yeon’s pigments.

Episode 30: When the Royal Artist becomes too nervous to paint the King's Royal Portrait, Song-yeon takes over (starting at 49:27 mark). Later, the King asks her to paint for him plum blossoms (starting at 58:00 mark).

Episode 34: In a test for joining Qing's Ministry of Culture, Song-yeon paints four drawings of Mount Geumgang (starting at 34:25 mark).

“Saimdang, Light’s Diary” review

1. To better understand and appreciate “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”, you need to know certain facts about divorce and the status of women during the Joseon Dynasty.

Many people in online forums have commented that Saimdang should have filed for divorce after she learned that her husband Lee Won-su took the tavern owner as his concubine. But these comments are wrong because:

(a) During the Joseon Dynasty, only men had the right to file for divorce.

“Men could divorce their wives based on the chilgeojiak, the ‘seven sins’ of disobedience towards in-laws, inability to bear a son, adultery, jealousy, hereditary disease, talkativeness and theft.” (From Wikipedia, citing “A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present” by Michael J, Seth, 2010)

(b) During the Joseon Dynasty, men also had the right to have concubines.

“Men could have second wives besides their first wife and have several concubines, as well. Being a second wife or a concubine of a nobleman was considered a rise on the social ladder for commoner or slave women, but their children were considered illegitimate and denied any yangban rights. First wives and legitimate children of noblemen often despised these women and their offspring. Society considered these children outcasts.” (From Wikipedia, citing “A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present” by Seth)

The article "Marriage and tears in the Joseon era" from Jeju Weekly tells us:

" ... most of these marriages were arranged and had little to do with love, but if a man was rich enough he often had a concubine — a woman he chose and often loved much more than his wife. The concubine may have had the husband’s attention but it was the wife who ruled the house."

Other information about the relationship between the wife and the concubine during the Joseon Dynasty from "Women in Korean History" by Lee Bae-yong (Ehwa Womans University Press):

“Conflict between wives and concubines was sometimes so fierce as to invite state intervention. In case a concubine, out of confidence in her man’s love for her, slandered or beat his wife and her children, the husband was punished by the government for failing to maintain order between his women. The concubine also faced punishment commensurate with her crime and in more serious cases, the husband was ordered to stay away from her. On the other hand, wives who abused their husbands' concubines faced relatively milder penalties. It was because their relationship as servant and owner was considered to outweigh one as concubine and wife.”

(Some people have wondered about Ep. 26 where Lee Won-su’s concubine lived in the same compound with Saimdang and her children. During the Joseon Dynasty, the concubine lived in an annex of the family home.)

2. Some people in the online forums criticized Saimdang as being spineless and a doormat when she pleaded with Lee Won-su not to divorce her (Ep. 20 beginning at 46:03 mark). But there are logical, practical, and cultural reasons why Saimdang pleaded with Lee Won-su not to divorce her.

In modern-day divorces in a lot of countries, husbands and wives fight over their properties and custody of the children. But marriage, divorce, and the status of women during the Joseon Dynasty were vastly different.

Although the wife managed the household, she did not have property rights,. Her dowry and inheritance (if any) became part of the husband’s property after they got married. When the husband died, the properties went to the male children; the eldest son was obligated to support his mother.

When the husband divorced his wife, the wife was expelled from the household.

If Lee Won-su divorces Saimdang, she will lose her children (unlike today when the wife can be given custody of the children). Can you imagine the tavern lady as the stepmother of Sun, Hyung-ryong, Mae-chang, and little Woo?

If Lee Won-su divorces Saimdang and then marries his concubine (the tavern lady), she will gain control of Saimdang’s paper production office. What will happen now to the drifters (and the poor folks at the soup station) who have been depending on Saimdang? We have already seen in Ep. 19 how the concubine picked a fight with the drifters.

In sum, Saimdang pleaded with Lee Won-su not to divorce her because she wanted to protect her children and the drifters.

3. Some people commented that they got mad and were speechless when Saimdang apologized to Lee Won-su about not being a good wife to him (Ep. 28 SBS version, starting at the 23:40 mark).

I beg to disagree that Saimdang said she was sorry for not being a good wife to Lee Won-su. Rather, she apologized for not loving him as a man.

Here’s the dialogue between Saimdang and Lee Won-su:
Saimdang: “You’ve been through a lot after meeting someone like me. In some ways, I feel bad for you.You were an amazing father for our children. Please don’t ever change in how you love them. Thank you for everything.”

Lee Won-su: (tears start falling and then remembers his question to Saimdang in Ep. 20 on whether she ever loved him as a man)

Saimdang: (as if she could read Lee Won-su’s mind, bows, and can't look directly at him) “I'm very sorry.”
That’s when Lee Won-su’s tears really start falling, realizing that Saimdang has always and will always love Lee Gyeom and no one else.

“Saimdang, Light’s Diary” has previously used this device (two people looking at each other and conversing in their minds, understanding what the other is saying despite no words being actually said). Examples:

Ep. 13 (from 26:13 mark to 26:43): Saimdang and Hwieumdang confront each other, with Hwieumdang realizing that Saimdang now knows that she was the lowborn Seok Soon.

Ep. 18 (starting at 26:54 mark): Min Chi-hyung and the court official who sabotaged Saimdang’s pigments

Ep. 28 (starting at 23:17 mark) flashback from Ep. 24 (starting at 9:57 mark): Hwieumdang and Saimdang

4. Another dramatic device in “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” uses the actors in the historical (Joseon) timeline to cross over and portray different roles in the modern timeline or vice-versa. The most outstanding example is Lee Young-ae who portrays Saimdang (historical timeline) and Ji-yoon (modern timeline). Another example is the actor who portrays King Jungjong (historical timeline) and Prof. Min (modern timeline).

These aren’t cases of reincarnation as most people think or have commented in online forums; they’re just a device that the drama oftentimes uses either for irony or humor. (It can’t be reincarnation because the actors who play the young Lee Gyeom and the adult Lee Gyeom both appear as different characters in the modern timeline.)

It’s a lot of fun looking out for the scenes where an actor crosses over from the historical timeline to the modern timeline or vice-versa; for examples, (1) the actor who plays the villain Min Chi-hyung appears in the modern timeline as the police officer who arrests Prof. Min; and (2) the actor who plays Lee Won-su, Saimdang’s worthless husband, appears in the modern timeline as the emergency room doctor who treats Ji-yoon in Ep. 29, international version.

Other actors who cross over from the historical timeline to the modern timeline are those who play (1) young Lee Gyeom as Han Sang-hyun, the university instructor who helps Ji-yoon; (2) the Prime Minister as the president of Seonjin Group; (3) Lady Jung, Saimdang’s best friend, as Hye-jung, the art forensic investigator; (4) Lee Won-su’s concubine as a store clerk; (5) Hyang, Saimdang’s servant, as a hospital nurse; (6) Hu, Lee Gyeom’s nephew, as Ji-yoon’s fellow passenger in her flight to Italy in Ep. 28, SBS version; (7) one of Biikdang’s staff as a police investigator; (8) the insane son of the Prime Minister as a police officer who arrests the president of Seonjin Group; (9) old man Pal Bong as a high government official; (10) Man Deuk, the paper artisan, as the corrupt president of the Art Antiquities Society; (11) the bandit leader who’s Lee Gyeom’s friend as a customer in a restaurant; (12) Lord So, Lee Gyeom’s friend, as the doctor who treats Ji-yoon’s son; and (13) the Crown Prince as the RADE representative in Korea.

The actors who cross over from the modern timeline to the historical timeline are those who play (1) Ji-yoon’s mother-in-law as Noble Lady Nam; (2) Ah-na, the daughter of the Seon Gallery owner, as the Ming interpreter; (3) Ji-yoon’s husband, as a Confucian scholar; (4) one of Prof. Min’s assistants as a drifter; and (5) the niece of the Seon Gallery owner as the bratty Princess Jeongsun.

5. Some continuity errors:

(a) in Ep. 24 SBS version from the 1:21 mark to 2:06, Min Chi-hyung’s scar moves from the right side of his face to his left;

(b) in Ep. 24 SBS version at the 11:09 mark, Hwieumdang’s childhood scar on her left hand appears too fresh and too small;

(c) in Ep, 27 international version at the 6:11 mark, the Crown Prince’s men are already fighting against the Japanese raiders, but it’s only at the 6:38 mark that they arrive at the scene.

(d) in Ep. 26 SBS version, Ji-yoon places her copy of the John Donne poem in her left pocket, but in Ep 27 (SBS version, 54:21 mark), she takes the poem from her right pocket.

6. Differences between the SBS version and international or original version (with potential spoilers for those who have not yet watched this drama):

(a) The SBS version focuses on the historical timeline, while the international version has an equal balance between the historical and modern timelines.

(b) The SBS version cuts so many scenes — equivalent to two episodes — that are integral to the story and character development. Here are some examples:

The SBS version doesn’t show us why Lee Won-su brazenly brought his concubine to Saimdang’s house. But the international version shows us in two episodes that Lee Won-su has found out about Saimdang and Lee Gyeom’s affection for each other.

These two episodes are (1) when Lee Gyeom holds Saimdang’s hand after they watched Min Chi-hyung being sent into exile, and (2) when Lee Won-su brings food to Saimdang after she was appointed as Royal Portrait Painter, and he sees Saimdang and Lee Gyeom having dinner together.

In Ep. 27 SBS version, Ji-yoon gives to Saimdang the bracelet that her son Eun-soo gave her. Ep. 26 SBS version does not tell us the bracelet’s significance, but the international version does (in the dialogue between Ji-yoon’s father and her son Eun-soo as they’re buying the bracelet).

In Ep. 23 SBS version, Hwieumdang shoots an arrow with a message attached to it. Lee Gyeom reads it and then goes to Saimdang’s rescue, with Hu rushing to the Crown Prince who then sends his royal guards to help Lee Gyeom. It appears from the SBS version that the Crown Prince only wanted to help Lee Gyeom rescue Saimdang. But the international version shows that Hwieumdang warned Lee Gyeom that Min Chi-hyung was selling the blueprints for Joseon’s turtle ship to the Japanese raiders and that the Crown Prince sent his men to help Lee Gyeom rescue Saimdang and to prevent the Japanese raiders from getting the blueprints.

(c) The sequence of events are different in the two versions. For example, the episode where Saimdang confronts Hwieumdang and the other mothers and paints on the silk skirt is Ep. 13 SBS version. But these scenes are in Ep. 16 or 18 (if I remember correctly) in the international version.

Timeline for SLD’s two versions:

(a) SLD was originally scheduled to be aired last October 2016 with simultaneous broadcast in Korea and China — the most lucrative market for Korean dramas. But because of the THAAD missile crisis, China banned Korean dramas, among other things. SBS decided to reschedule SLD to January 2017 hoping that the political crisis would be over by that time.

(b) By January 2017, SBS abandoned the simultaneous broadcast to China and instead decided to air it in Korea and via cable to several Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, and in Hong Kong. SLD also decided to edit SLD for the broadcast in Korea and in Asia. This edited version has come to be known as the original or international version.

(c) After Episode 2 was aired, SBS decided to re-edit SLD’s Korean broadcast. This re-edited version has come to be known as the SBS version.

(d) On or about the first week of April 2017, SBS announced that it will cut SLD’s Korean broadcast from 30 episodes to 28, supposedly because the cut scenes were not necessary for the drama’s completion. SBS, however, left the international version as is, with 30 episodes.

OST videos

Theme song “Why” by Zia (click “cc” icon for English lyrics)

Theme song “Why” (piano cover)

“Only One Love” featuring scenes from Finale

“Amnesia” by Kim Bum Soo, OST Part.7 (click “cc” icon for English lyrics), featuring scenes from Ep. 16, 17, and 18

“Whenever, Wherever” by Lyn, OST Part.4 (click “cc” icon for English lyrics); featuring scenes from Ep. 5 and 6

Kpop video interviews with Lee Young-ae on “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”

“Jewel In The Palace” Lee Young Ae Is Back In New Drama “Saimdang” (Part 1/7)

Who is “Saimdang”? Lee Young Ae Reveals (Part 2/7)

Lee Young Ae On Why She Chose “Saimdang” (Part 4/7)

Lee Young Ae Says Her Doctorate Degree Is Useful For “Saimdang” Role (Part 5/7)

Lee Young Ae Talks About Challenges Filming “Saimdang” (Part 6/7)

“More Meaningful Than The Ratings” - This Is What Lee Young Ae wishes For “Saimdang” (Part 7/7)

“Saimdang, Light’s Diary” aka “Saimdang, Soulmates Across Time” as a novel (English translations)

“Saimdang, Light’s Diary” (aka “Saimdang, Soulmates Across Time”) has been published as a novel in Korean and in Chinese. You can read the unofficial English translations by “liddi” in this drama’s Soompi discussion page through the links listed below.

Part 1 of the novel:

Chapter 3: Ji-yoon (Jillian) in Italy after being terminated by Prof. Min and then going to Siesta Di Luna where she finds Saimdang’s diary(Eps. 1-2, SBS version)

Chapter 4: Ji-yoon (Jillian) and her husband meet an accident, and she travels back in a trance to Joseon as Saimdang (Ep. 2, SBS version)

Chapter 6: Saimdang painting at Unpyeongsa where she sees the portrait of the Buddhist goddess (Ep. 3, SBS version)

Chapter 8: Unpyeongsa massacre (Ep. 4, SBS version)

Chapter 9: Saimdang and her children find themselves homeless in Hanyang (Ep. 5 and 6, SBS version).

Chapter 10: Lee Gyeom sends his “Mother Dog and Puppies” painting to Saimdang (Ep. 6, SBS version).

Chapter 11: Saimdang begins to have nightmares of the massacre after meeting Min Chi-hyung again, and Hyun-ryong finding a copy of the King’s poem.

Chapter 12: The Head Teacher of Jungbu School encourages Saimdang to enroll Hyunp0ryong as a student there.

Chapter 13: Hwieumdang disguises herself as Black Peony and visits Biikdang, and Prof. Min barges into Ji-yoon’s house.

Chapter 14: Saimdang looks for a paper artisan who can teach her how to make paper.

Chapter 15: Lee Gyeom confronts Hwieumdang after the painting and poetry contest in Biikdang.

Chapter 16: Lee Gyeom goes to Unpyeongsa to find out what really happened there 20 years ago.

Part 2 of the novel:

Chapter 17: Lee Gyeom’s great aunt tells him to forget the past to protect himself and Saimdang.

Chapter 18: Lee Gyeom suggests to the King that they go on a hunt.

Chapter 19: Lee Gyeom presents the painting of the falcon to King Jungjong.

Chapter 20: Ji-yoon (Jillian), Hye-jung (Jessica), and Han Sang-hyun (Zanjo) examine the portrait of the Joseon beauty.

Chapter 21: Lee Won-su gets appointed to the Bureau of translations. Saimdang, Hiweumdang, and Lee Gyeom at the cliff.

Chapter 22

Chapter 23 :Prof. Min burns the Mount Geumgang” painting.

Chapter 24: Lee Gyeom returns to Hanyang after fighting against the Japanese pirates.

(Other chapters are still being translated.)

Free posters and infographics on “Saimdang” and Lee Young-ae for download

Note: Click the text links to view or download much bigger copies of the posters or infographics; these bigger copies may take several seconds to load.

Saimdang’s wedding ornaments (Ep. 5, SBS version)

2018 “Saimdang” calendars

A big fan of “Saimdang, Light’s Diary” ("mabelialong") has posted in the Soompi forum calendars for 2017 and 2018 that feature artworks based on this drama. Each calendar (or calendar with notes) is 1374 by 1760 pixels in dimension and about 400 Kb in file size.

You can download the complete 2018 calendars in JPG format from Dropbox.

Posted below is the January 2018 calendar (click the link to view or download a much bigger copy of the January 2018 calendar).

Lee Young-ae’s award-winning 2005 movie “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” parodied in “Saimdang”

Two versions of a historical painting by Shim Saimdang: which one is authentic?

Saimdang tracing flowers on the first batch of paper that she made

Saimdang leaving her childhood home (Ep. 6, SBS version)

Saimdang and Lee Gyeom’s confrontation (from Ep. 6, SBS version)

Saimdang gives “hwajeon” sweet rice cakes with edible flowers to the deposed Queen

Real story behind Saimdang’s painting on a skirt (Ep. 13, SBS version)

Historical painting by Peter Paul Rubens depicted in “Saimdang”

Saimdang fulfills her lifelong dream of climbing Mount Geumgang

Royal Portraits Museum of Joseon’s kings

Lee Young-ae’s hit movie “Joint Security Area” (2000) acclaimed by Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino

Historical paintings by famous Joseon artist Dan Won depicted in “Saimdang”

Historical backgrounders on Saimdang’s son Hyun-ryong known as “Yulgok” (one of Joseon’s greatest Confucian scholars)

Historical Buddhist painting depicted in Ep. 19

Identity tags during Joseon Dynasty

Lee Gyeom’s painting of Mount Geumgang on the fan that he gave to the King

Siesta Di Luna dialogues between Saimdang and Lee Gyeom in Ep. 24

Background information on divorce during the Joseon Dynasty

Lessons in photography from “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”

Rack focus (technique oftentimes used in Korean dramas)

From Episode 8 (I’ve edited the GIF to slow it down at certain stages):

Hwieumdang is in the foreground while Saimdang, with her son, is in the background.

(1) Hwieumdang is out of focus and Saimdang is in focus;

(2) Saimdang becomes out of focus and Hwieumdang becomes in focus;

(3) finally, Hwieumdang becomes out of focus and Saimdang becomes in focus.

Another example from Episode 8:

(1) As Saimdang leaves, Lee Gyeom is out of focus, while Hwieumdang is in focus.

(2) As Lee Gyeom turns his head around, he comes into focus, while Hwieumdang becomes out of focus.

From Episode 6: First picture - Saimdang is out of focus;
second picture - Saimdang is in focus

From Episode 2: rack focus

From Episode 1: reflection

From Episode 1: keystoning, natural frame

From Episode 1: converging lines scale, natural frame

From Episode 2: focal center of interest, converging lines

From Episode 2: rule of thirds, aerial perspective

From Episode 2: cool colors, aerial perspective

From Episode 2: line of direction

From Episode 2: shallow depth of field

From Episode 2: shallow depth of field, bokeh

From Episode 2: high angle shot, partial frame

From Episode 2: shallow depth of field, diagonal line, vanishing point

From Episode 3: scale, aerial perspective

From Episode 3: available light, existing light,
light filtered through foliage

From Episode 3: natural frame

From Episode 3: high angle shot, aerial perspective

From Episode 3: out-of-focus highlights

From Episode 3: natural frame

From Episode 3: reflection

From Episode 3: shooting against the light

From Episode 4: aerial perspective

From Episode 5: rule of thirds, cool colors, compressed perspective,
linear and aerial perspective

From Episode 5: reflection

From Episode 6: shallow depth of field,
focus on the eyes

From Episode 6: rule of thirds, aerial perspective

From Episode 7: aerial perspective

From Episode 8: shallow depth of field, bokeh

From Episode 8: establishing shot

From Episode 8: compressed perspective,
foreground and background blur

From Episode 8: line of direction, background blur

From Episode 9: conveying depth by overlapping forms

From Episode 9: focal center of interest, aerial perspective

From Episode 9: picture diagonal

From Episode 9: rule of thirds, aerial perspective

From Episode 9: shooting groups

From Episode 10: natural frames

From Episode 10: partial, out-of-focus frame

From Episode 10: rule of thirds, scale, aerial perspective

From Episode 10: silhouette

From Episode 11: golden hours

From Episode 12: rule of thirds, aerial perspective

From Episode 12: rule of thirds, aerial perspective,
high angle shot

From Episode 12: silhouette

From Episode 18: local frame

Rule of thirds, line of direction, shallow depth of field

Quality and direction of light, rule of thirds

Shooting against the light, out-of-focus highlights

Shooting against the light, out-of-focus highlights

Out-of-focus foreground foliage as natural frame,
color temperature, cool colors

Low-angle shot, rule of thirds

High-angle shot


Anonymous said...

Thanks! Keep it up!

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

Notes on Episode 10:

(1) How can Saimdang and Lee Gyeom get back together romantically if Saimdang’s husband, Lee Won-su, is still alive?

As someone in a Disqus forum pointed out, Lee Won Su divorcing Saimdang is out of the question considering the culture during the Joseon Dynasty. Wikipedia states:

“Women had to obey their husbands and in-laws and had no right to apply for a divorce. Men could divorce their wives based on the chilgeojiak, the ‘seven sins’: disobedience towards in-laws, inability to bear a son, adultery, jealousy, hereditary disease, talkativeness and theft.”

My guess is that SLD’s writer will give Lee Won Su - a pathetic husband and father - a chance to finally redeem himself. Saimdang and her children will be threatened by Min Chi-hyung, and Lee Won-su will die trying to protect them. When will this happen? My guess is sometime between Ep. 16 to 20.

But there’s a problem if and when Lee Won-su dies. Wikipedia also states:

“Women were expected to be faithful to their husbands beyond death so widows were not allowed to remarry. In lower classes such marriages still happened, as families, for financial reasons, married off the burdensome widows to men who could not afford to marry otherwise. While the breaking of the rule in lower classes was widely ignored by authorities, yangban widows were forbidden to remarry, or their children would be cast out of the noble class.”

I’m eagerly waiting to find out how SLD’s writer will bring Saimdang and Lee Gyeom together.

(2) Familiar face: At the 52:05 mark, we see Lee Won-su at a tavern; he has left the temple and has come back to Hanyang.

The tavern owner, conniving with a man, is planning to scam Lee Won Su; we’ll see more in Ep. 11.

If I’m not mistaken, the tavern owner is played by an actress who appeared in Lee Young-ae’s hit 2003 drama “A Jewel in the Palace.” She played the role of one of the senior lady physicians who made life difficult for Jang Geum.

(3) Foreshadowing on how Saimdang will learn the secret to making the famous and sought-after Goryeo paper:

At the 19:05 mark, an old man tells Lee Gyeom that the man who survived the Unpyeongsa massacre had a big scar on his neck. We then see scenes of drifters near a stream and a boy taking care of his old and sickly grandfather. That boy later on will steal Saimdang and her children’s food (35:43 mark). If you review the scenes starting at the 19:05 mark, you’ll see that the grandfather has a big scar on his neck.

My guess is that this old man is the survivor from Unpyeongsa massacre. Out of gratitude for what Saimdang has done for his grandson and the drifters, he will teach Saimdang the secret to making the famous Goryeo paper. (Remember Ep. 4 where someone sells to Min Chi-hyung the secret to making Goryeo paper? That person says that he got the secret from his father.)

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

Lee Gyeom’s words to Saimdang in Ep. 12:

“You can continue to live your life. For the drifters and for your family. If that’s the path you must walk on, then go ahead. But for me, I’ll always be standing right where you can see me.

“I don’t care if you’re another man’s wife, or if you’ll never look at me. Even if our paths are parallel and we’ll never be able to meet, I’ll walk along with you for the rest of my life!”

Lee Gyeom's words refer to that principle (theorem?) in geometry that says parallel lines never meet. But mathematicians also speak of "projective geometry" where parallel lines meet at a point in infinity. So, there's hope that Saimdang will finally be with Lee Gyeom in the present time as Ji-yoon and whoever that photographer in the preview is!

But what about Han Sang-hyun (Ji-yoon's young friend and fellow instructor)? Maybe we'll have a love triangle in the later episodes?

izzie said...

Interesting discussion. I also wonder how they are going to make Saimdang and Lee Gyeom to at least have a happy ending. Thinking of the flashbacks of burning of the Mount Kumgang, I am so afraid it is going to be a tragic ending.

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

Timeline for SLD's two versions

(1) SLD was originally scheduled to be aired last October 2016 with simultaneous broadcast in Korea and China (the most lucrative market for Korean dramas). But because of the THAAD missile crisis, China banned Korean dramas, among other things. SBS decided to reschedule SLD to January 2017 hoping that the political crisis would be over by that time.

(2) By January 2017, SBS abandoned the simultaneous broadcast to China and instead decided to air it in Korea and via cable to several Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, and in Hong Kong. SLD also decided to edit SLD for the broadcast in Korea and in Asia. This edited version has come to be known as the original or international version.

(3) In Korea, SLD reached 16% viewership in Ep. 2. But beginning Ep. 3, ratings began dropping and hovering at around 9 to 10%.

SBS panicked and decided to re-edit SLD’s Korean broadcast. This re-edited version has come to be known as the SBS version, and it started to be aired by Ep. 5.

SBS, however, left the international version as is, with 30 episodes.

(4) Despite the re-editing, ratings continued to fare poorly. For example, Ep. 24 received one of SLD’s lowest ratings, And yet, as a lot of people would say, Ep. 24 (when Saimdang and Lee Gyeom finally got together in Keumkangsan) is probably one of the best episodes.

(5) On or about the first week of April 2017, SBS announced that it will cut SLD from 30 episodes to 28, supposedly because the cut scenes were not necessary for the drama’s completion.

Again, SBS left the international version with its 30 episodes

Differences between the SBS version and international (original) version

(1)The sequence of events are different in the two versions. For example, the episode where Saimdang confronts Hwieumdang and the other mothers and paints on the silk skirt is Ep. 13 SBS version. But these scenes are in Ep. 16 or 18 (if I remember correctly) in the international version.

(2) The SBS version focuses on the historical timeline, while the international version has an equal balance between the historical and modern timelines.

(3) The SBS version cuts so many scenes that are integral to the story and character development. Examples, the SBS version doesn’t show us why Lee Won-su brazenly brought his concubine to Saimdang’s house. But the international version shows us in two episodes that Lee Won-su has found out about Saimdang and Lee Gyeom’s affection for each other.

Also, in Ep, 27 SBS version, Ji-yoon gives to Saimdang the bracelet that her son Eun-soo gave her. Ep. 26 SBS version does not tell us the bracelet’s significance, but the international version does.

Reasons for the poor ratings in Korea

(1) SLD is a family drama and was originally scheduled to be aired on Saturdays and Sundays. But SBS moved it to Wednesdays and Thursdays. I believe that if SLD had been aired on weekends, it would have done better in ratings.

(2) Demographics.

Korean teenagers seem to rule when it comes to TV viewing in households. Just think of “Moonlight Drawn by Clouds” starring young stars Park Bo-geum and Kim Yoo-jung. One episode of “Moonlight” reached 20% viewership.

“The Flower in Prison” starring young adults like Jin Se-yeon and Seo Ha-Jun (the gorgeous King) reached 20% viewership by its 4th episode. And yet a much better drama like “Six Flying Dragons” never reached 20%.

An article titled “Arms wide open? Big stars cold-shouldered in recent TV comebacks” from Yonhap News Agency states that current dramas starring veteran (older) stars have done poorly in the ratings. Besides SLD,t te article cites as examples "Ms. Perfect" and"Chicago Typewriter."

For those who have not yet watched or are just starting to watch SLD, my advice is to watch the international version. Currently, only iflix has the English-subbed videos of the international version.

Ana Paula Lima said...

I am from Brazil and I have finished to watch all the 28 eps at Netflix yesterday. I thoth the Netflix version is the SBS version because I don't remember that scene where Saimdang's husband find out that she loves Lee Gyoum etc because of those missing scenes it wasn't clear why he moved with the other ewoma to his house.Also in this Netflix version it seems to have much more scenes from the past than a 50% balance between.
I THANK you soooo much for doing such a good review about this beautiful TV show, I see much misunderstood at Internet comments from people that doesn't understand the historically background for Saimdang not got divorced,but you made all the subjects very clear!
You have done an excellent research for this post <3

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

Ana Lima,

1. Thanks for taking time to read my synopsis of SLD; I found out only recently that Netflix is using the SBS version (28 episodes). As of now, it's only iflix that carries the international version (30 episodes, English subs). Sadly, however, iflix is available only in Asia.

But I also have a synopsis for the international version of SLD, which you might want to read. The URL is

2. “Saimdang” is currently being broadcast in Iran; you can watch it in (international version, dubbed in Farsi). Eps. 1-9 are still there, but other episodes have already been taken down.

3. I have created interactive English grammar and vocabulary exercises based on "Saimdang"; surf to

4. I'm eagerly waiting for Lee Young-ae's new historical drama "Different Dreams" (it will probably be broadcast late 2018).

Ana Paula Lima said...

Thanks for answering and thanks for the new links (I will save it). I hope this new drama come soon.

L.C.Lou said...

Thank you so much for all your research on this beautiful drama! I thought it was cute in the first scene of the first episode that Ji Yoon is complimented on her side dishes - You always season it perfectly - a reference to her Jewel in the Palace kitchen lady days.
Also Prime Minister's wife was Her best friend in Jewel, I think?

I will definitely be checking out your other synopses and discussions.

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

L.C. Lou,

1. Thanks, I missed that part in Episode 1 that you referred to.

You're correct that "Saimdang" is a beautiful drama. It's too bad that most people at this point in time are viewing the SBS version (with 28 versions) rather than the international version (with 30 episodes). I was able to watch the international version on iflix, but sadly, iflix is available only in Asia.

I think the international version is available on DVD and Bluray only from the company that released "Saimdang" in Japan.

"Saimdang" has been released as a novel by the drama's writer. A fan named "liddi" has written an English translation of the novel in Soompi; I placed the links to the translations in the "Backgrounders" section between the topics "Kpop video interviews with Lee Young-ae" and "Free posters and infographics." OR you can go direct to the Soompi translations by "liddi" at

If you want more in-depth discussions on Korean culture and history with regards "Saimdang," go also to Soompi and read the discussions by a guy named "gerrytan8063"

2. "Also Prime Minister's wife was Her best friend in Jewel, I think?"

Are you referring to the character "Yeun-seng" in "A Jewel in the Palace" who is Jang Geum's childhood friend and who later on became the King's concubine? I don't think so; "Yeun-seng" was played by actress Park Eun-hye, and she's not in the cast of characters of "Saimdang" listed in AsianWiki.

Park Eun-hye played the role of Princess Hyo-eui (and later the Queen) in the 2007 hit "Yi San, Wind in the Palace" and also appeared in The Merchant: Gaekju 2015" with famous Korean actor Jang-yuk ("Chuno" and "A Tree With Deep Roots.") She is more well-known in China rather than in Korea, as a cosmetics model; one brand of cosmetics was named after her Yeun-seng character). Like Lee Young-ae, she also has twins.

By "wife of the Prime Minister" you might be referring to the actress who played a cameo role in Episode 1 as Professor Min's wife. She is Kim Seo-ra, who appeared in "Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love," "Soldier: God of War," and in "The Princess's Man."

3. In Episode 3, Saimdang goes to a temple in the mountain. That temple was also used in "Chuno" Episode 4.

4. Thanks for considering my synopses of other Korean historical dramas. May I suggest that you read and watch the following:

(a) "Jejoongwon" starring Han Hye-jin who appeared as So Seo No in "Jumong"; "Jejoongwon" isn't as well known as other dramas, but it's well-loved by K-drama websites like Dramabeans, Koala's Playground, Thundie's Prattle. You can watch it in the websites Dramacool and

(b) "Six Flying Dragons"

(c) "Mr. Sunshine" which is a very recent hit; it started sometime in July 2018 and ended in September. People are raving about this drama's Hollywood-style cinematography, and I have written an in-depth analysis of its cinematography.

L.C.Lou said...

I'm not sure where to write just a general comment to you, so will try here. I hope you are watching Arthdal Chronicles! I am looking forward to your synopses, cinematography analysis, etc.

Atty. Gerry T. Galacio said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I saw the trailers of "Arthdal Chronicles" last week, and the costumes, sets, etc. look fantastic. But I haven't decided yet whether to write a synopsis for it. Reason? I've left unfinished two historical dramas: "The Duo" and "Iron Empress," and I'm thinking of finishing them before doing anything else. I'm also thinking of doing "The Nokdu Flower" which is currently being broadcast.

I've just finished writing my synopsis of "Haechi" which was aired February to May this year. Have you seen this drama already?

Speaking of cinematography, lots of people praise the cinematography of the 2018 drama "Mr. Sunshine" but merely cite as proof the gorgeous sunsets and the epic battle scenes in Eps. 1-2. In my synopsis of "Mr. Sunshine," I wrote a detailed analysis of its cinematography. I even mentioned that the cinematographer (or editor) committed a basic error in what is called "eyeline match."

I'm frustrated by the low rank of my synopsis of "Mr. Sunshine" in Google Search; it seems Google assigns a better ranking to those websites and blogs that carry its ads.

Incidentally, I just added a historical note to Ep. 2 of "Mr. Sunshine" which I don't think has been mentioned in other blogs and websites. The "Kudo Hina" character may have been based on a historical person, an Austrian woman named "Hannah" who worked for "Steinbeck's Hotel" in Korea during the 1880s.